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UK charity maps Sri Lanka aid effort

The authorities and relief agencies in Sri Lanka have been delivering aid on the tsunami-ravaged island using maps produced 24 hours a day by a team of British volunteers.
Eleven experts, from UK-based charity MapAction, flew to the capital Colombo two days after the Indian Ocean earthquake.

The team has employed GPS technology, which uses satellites to gather navigational information, to map the developing situation in the country. Nigel Woof, MapAction’s operations manager in Sri Lanka, said they had been producing 25 to 30 new or updated maps every day since their arrival on 29 December.

The first maps detailed numbers of people dead, injured, missing or displaced in different areas.

Aid workers were able to plan journeys using MapAction maps of blocked roads, damaged bridges and diversions. The team is based within the Sri Lankan government’s Centre for National Operations (CNO) in Colombo.

It has briefed more than 70 aid workers, presenting updated maps, at daily conferences in the CNO.

MapAction members have carried out some data collection themselves, travelling by car and helicopter, but the vastness of the affected area means they have largely relied on information passed back by officials and organisations spread across the country.

The team is due to return to the UK on 12 January, but will be donating some of its equipment to the CNO and is training local people to use it to continue mapping the aid effort.