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The European Commission's Joint Research Centre, United Nations and the World Bank issue a Comprehensive Building Damage Atlas

A comprehensive atlas of all damage caused in Haiti by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 12 January 2010 is now available to help planning recovery and reconstruction measures.

The atlas, based on the comparison between predisaster satellite imagery and post-disaster aerial photos, provides an overview of building damage in the main affected cities in Haiti showing that almost 60,000 buildings, ten times more than initially estimated, were either destroyed or very heavily damaged.

The Haiti building damage atlas was produced by the United Nations’ Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)/Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), and the World Bank in support to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) process led by the Government of Haiti.

The atlas provides a homogenous evidence base for the identification of recovery needs and the mobilisation of resources to finance the recovery and reconstruction. For each main city a separate atlas is produced, including an overview map of the atlas sheets, as well as individual sheets at a scale of 1:2,500 for A3 size hardcopy printouts. The damage to individual buildings is categorised according to the European Macroseismic Scale (EMS‐98) five‐level grading system, which includes a substantial to heavy damage state (Level 3), very heavy damage state (Level 4), and destruction damage state (Level 5).

Almost 60,000 buildings were found to be either completely destroyed or very heavily damaged in the densely populated parts of the eleven communes assessed. Residential buildings and buildings in slums bore the worst damage, particularly in Port-Au-Prince, Carrefour, Delmas and Leogane communes.

The atlas and the detailed damage assessments are the result of comparison and manual photo-interpretation of pre‐earthquake satellite imagery (circa 50 cm spatial resolution) and post‐earthquake aerial photos (circa 15 cm spatial resolution). In addition to the imagery analysis, UNOSAT, JRC and the World Bank have carried out in-field missions in cooperation with Haiti’s Centre National d’Information Geo-Spatiale (CNIGS).

The damage is now assessed to be ten times higher than first estimates given immediately after the event, which can be attributed to the availability of better resolution aerial data.

Background information

The atlas and the detailed damage assessments are the result of the three main operational remote sensing damage assessments carried out following the earthquake on 12 January by image analysts at UNITAR/UNOSAT, assisted by Swisstopo of Switzerland and the Remote Sensing Laboratories (RSL) of the University of Zurich, the JRC and the World Bank. Aerial photos were provided by the World Bank (World Bank‐ImageCat‐RIT Remote Sensing Mission), Google and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); satellite imagery was derived from the GeoEye and Digitalglobe satellites.

UNITAR/UNOSAT received funding support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the JRC received funding from the European Union Instrument for Stability, and The World Bank received funding through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

The PDNA Atlas series is available for download at:

UNITAR: Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 76 4874997 //