2019 - Cyclone Idai - Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi


@Mel_Nod, we would really like to help here if possible. :pensive:


I agree. The numbers are rising. There is widespread damage throughout Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, etc. I would imagine there will be UNHCR type tents set up here in the next while for shelter, medicine, etc.


Update this evening:


We should be helping immediately…from a human welfare standpoint, this may cause Hurricane Maria to pale in comparison. For us at Tomnod, :

  1. real-time imagery less than 24hrs old looking for stranded groups of people 2) start marking completely destroyed structures with a before/after comparison 3) begin marking flooded roads, Bridges and other critical infrastructure

Hello @trevycas! Welcome to the forum. One of the things we all have to remember is that a government agency, a relief or other organization has to ask for DG’s (Digital Globe’s) help. Once they do, then the satellites have to be re-tasked to take images of the specific area. If there is still a lot of cloud cover over the area, that blocks out a lot of damage. Archived data has to be searched to get the same “search” area and then there’s a lot of digital “cutting and stitching” done which actually creates the before and after images we see. Once that is done, then the campaign is announced. But our help has to be asked for first. Many times we “nodders” - that’s what we call ourselves - feel so frustrated and useless because we want to work on a campaign such as this, but no one asks.

I agree with you that the damage and loss of life could make Hurricane Maria pale in comparison. This makes me think of the island of Dominica… 95% destroyed.


I agree, we need one of the aid agencies to ask for our help…we know the Red Cross and Save the children (below in article) are already on the ground there, but I am unsure of agencies such as UNHCR, or another of this type.

“Amnesty International in a statement on Tuesday called on foreign governments and international aid agencies to"ramp up” resources and assistance for thousands of people that have been displaced, and those that are still trapped in the aftermath of the disaster."

I also agree, as the damages are starting to come in and the death toll rises, this is a disaster that could surpass H. Maria or any others we have worked on previously.

We all want to “help immediately” but I’m not sure the system can do this.

This is an update at 12:41 p.m. ET


Thanks for your informative reply. The need for an initial request was known to me, as was the basic idea of the set-up time to prepare a live Tomnod project.

Regarding the request for help, it appears that the Charter Activation asking for help has been issued: https://disasterscharter.org/web/guest/activations/-/article/cyclone-in-zimbabwe-activation-599-. https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/unoosa-activates-international-charter-cyclone-idai-zimbabwe. DigitalGlobe is partner to the charter, so is that the request for help that is needed, or does Tomnod itself have to be asked for assistance?


Can anyone else help direct @trevycas asap??

I’m not the one to answer your questions but I can direct them to @Mel_Nod. I see it is on the Open Data Program already.


While I’m not privy to whether or not that would constitute “a request”, I would imagine that DG would or could accept that as a request. But there would have to be someone on the “receiving end” to receive the data… to be a contact person, agency, etc… All I know is that we (Tomnodders) are ready, willing and able to give our time to such a campaign. But remember this: all around the world we are seeing major disasters - sometimes on a weekly basis (or less). We could have as many as 10 campaigns going at once. I, for one, would be willing to lose sleep in order to work on as many campaigns as possible. But, until someone does make an “official” request for our help, our hands are tied - frustrating as it is. For all we know, DG/Tomnod could already be preparing data for a campaign as we speak. (Keeping my fingers crossed.)

I did check DG’s website regarding disaster assistance (open data), read and downloaded their policy (PDF) for future reference. In the description of services available it does give Tomnod (crowdsourcing) as an additional layer of data.


From the above link (see link for better formatting which should be a table instead of a list: major event is > 100,000 people affected) this certainly counts as a major event which DigitalGlobe Crises Response says data will be made freely:

“As an event is predicted or unfolds, the DigitalGlobe Crisis Response Team monitors the event and calls an Activation Meeting, if necessary. At the Activation Meeting, the Crisis Response Team will decide the appropriate response. In alignment with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) protocol, the event will be evaluated according to these criteria. The team will consider geographic scope, humanitarian impact, estimated duration and need for activation. These will help determine whether or not the open data policy applies. Data will generally be made free and publically available for any major event.
Event Scope
Minor Event

Moderate Event

Major Event
Geographic Scope
Village(s) to City

City to Region/Country

Humanitarian Impact
<10,000 people affected
10,000 to 100,000 people affected

100,000 people affected
Likelihood of Need

Here’s a BBC article which shows this is a “major event”

This BBC article states (selected quotes):

“more than 1,000 people may have been killed after the cyclone hit the country last week.”

“Cyclone Idai made landfall near the port city of Beira in Sofala province on Thursday with winds of up to 177 km/h (106 mph).”

“ "We need all the logistical support that we can get, " Christian Lindmeier from the UN’s World Health Organization said.”
“Mozambique’s government says 84 people have died and 100,000 need to be urgently rescued near Beira.”

“An aerial survey of the province shows that a 50km (30 mile) stretch of land is under water after the Buzi river burst its banks, charity Save The Children says.”

“ At least 1.7 million people were in the direct path of the cyclone in Mozambique and 920,000 have been affected in Malawi, the UN said.”

“In Zimbabwe, at least 20,000 houses have been partially damaged in the south-eastern town of Chipinge, 600 others were completely destroyed.”

Floods of up to six metres deep had caused “incredible devastation” over a huge area in Mozambique, World Food Programme regional chief Lola Castro said.

“ “This is shaping up to be one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere, if the report by [Mozambique’s] president and other agencies are confirmed, in terms of the causality toll,” Clare Nullis from the UN’s weather agency told the BBC.”

Floods of up to six metres deep had caused “incredible devastation” over a huge area in Mozambique, World Food Programme regional chief Lola Castro said.



Thanks @Kateg and @Jim for your quick answers.


Thanks everyone for timely, on-topic responses!

I am just trying to find out

  1. if DG plans on opening up a Tomnod project(s) for Cyclone Idai,

  2. is there someone to contact at DG who is the point person for determining the answer to (1)? and,

(3) separately, if someone such as myself with a GIS and Remote Sensing background, with some of the appropriate tools, can be of assistance in preparing the project for release?

  1. does Tomnod need more volunteers at the level just mentioned (project preparation)?

Please see Mel’s previous post, here:

( Upcoming New Antarctica Campaign and Other )


I am not an employee, but let me try to answer some questions, to the best of my knowledge.

Work on images is done in-house. Employees work on images, not volunteers.

Anyone can apply for open positions, e.g. for employment. The headquarters for DigitalGlobe is in Colorado.

Maxar / DigitalGlobe just recently lost use of their newest satellite, the grandest baby Worldview 4. WV4 began spinning and nothing worked to make it stop. We can still hope :pray: :prayer_beads:

WV4 was billed as the company’s go-to sat for numerous time sensitive contracts. As a result of that catastrophe with WV4, revenues took a hit, stockholders got nervous, and stocks dropped. :frowning: So, as Mel posted, much is in flux right now. We need to be understanding while they get things sorted out.

In the meantime, Dr. LaRue and Mel look forward to Nodders going through the new seals campaign and marking the tiles as Seals or No Seals. :smiley: And we still have a little bit to go on H. Maria too – Mel said researchers still ask after that data, so let’s give them all the data we can!

Tomnod Forum Moderator


Could it be that DG just haven’t got any imagery of those areas affected (yet)?
Just briefly looking on DG’s Open Data https://discover.digitalglobe.com/ the latest image date for the Beira area (that I can see) is 4th March…which may be useful for the before imagery in a campaign. So I guess a satellite would have to be tasked to that area and hope for viable imagery first.



If there’s still a heavy cloud cover, they’ll have to wait until it clears up some before obtaining a lot of usable photos. Still, I imagine there are areas where the cloud cover isn’t that bad and that would be usable to a good extent.

I also checked out many of the data sets in the archived data - 44 data sets. Most were clear, but a few had some cloud cover which would make it hard to use - like the smoke in the Illegal Burning campaign for Indonesia we worked on. Some areas were so smokey you couldn’t see anything but the glow of the hottest fires through the smoke.


The more we read, the more we know this is a campaign we should be doing… please, please, please…