WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China on Thursday asked the United States for satellite images of quake-stricken Sichuan province to help locate victims and identify seriously damaged roads and infrastructure, U.S. and Chinese officials said.
The request, hand-delivered to the State Department by a Chinese embassy official shortly before noon EDT, seeks high-resolution imagery of the region surrounding the south-central Chinese city of Chengdu, officials told Reuters.
A State Department spokesman had no immediate comment on how the United States would respond to the request but officials said it was expected to receive a high priority.
A U.S. document obtained by Reuters said China has already received offers of advanced satellite imagery from Japan as well as offers of radar data from Canada and Italy through the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, has already begun analyzing imagery of the earthquake’s aftermath taken from U.S. spy satellites, according to defense officials.
The Bush administration has offered spy satellite images and analysis to foreign governments coping with natural disaster in recent years to help organize rescue and recovery operations.
The State Department would also likely seek imagery for China from civilian government satellite, such as the U.S. Geological Survey as well as private-sector satellite companies, especially before-and-after images of quake-stricken sites, officials said.
Half the epicenter town of Yingxiu, where corpses are lined along the river, has been flattened and 90 percent of the buildings remaining look unsafe.
U.S. satellite imagery could produce highly detailed pictures of damage to roads, railways, tunnels, ports and coastlines. A official at the Chinese embassy in Washington said the data could also help save lives by locating desperate victims.