On Saturday, Cyclone Usman killed at least 68 people and displaced tens of thousands in the region of Bicol in the Philippines. Intense rain and flooding led to landslides around the area and caught many vacation goers off guard. As the rain continues to fall, many areas in the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions remain underwater. Rescuers are braving the harsh conditions to save those who are stranded.


PlanetWatchers has performed near real-time flooding damage analysis on this part of the Philippines only several hours after initial reports of loss of life to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. Using radar imagery from ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellite, PlanetWatchers analyzed imagery prior to the storm (December 18th) and shortly after the storm passed through the central part of the Philippines (December 30th).


Image One shows the affected area with the flooded areas highlighted in blue. This type of change detection shows the vast regions now inundated with floodwaters. By our estimates, there are 26,655 hectares now underwater as a result of this storm.

Image One: Area affected by Cyclone Usman. Areas highlighted in blue are flooded as a result of the heavy rains. This is a composite of imagery captured on December 18th and December 30th. Source: European Space Agency

Additionally, based on comparisons with topographic maps of the region, much of the flooding occurs in the low-lying agricultural areas at the base of Mount Isarog, Mount Malinao and Mount Mayon. It is our hope that this information assists in the rescue and recovery efforts and our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this tragic event.

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