The Zamboanga crisis: Seen from space
Satellite images show Zamboanga destruction
MANILA - Satellite photos taken at the height of the attack on Zamboanga City by gunmen loyal to Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari show rooftops of houses in villages in the bustling southern port city.
Four days later, images show only the remains of structures destroyed by fire.
The United Nations has released satellite images to map the effects of the violence in Zamboanga City, which has left 131,000 people homeless and at least 180 others dead.
More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed in the fighting, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The UNOCHA commissioned the United Nations Institute for Training and Research - Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNITAR /UNOSAT) to assess the preliminary damage in the city.
Using the WorldView-1 satellite, UNOSAT took images of the Rio Hondo and Santa Catalina villages on September 17 and September 21.
The differences in the satellite photos were glaring.
"By using satellite imagery, we were able to see the extent of damage in areas inaccessible to aid workers due to the fighting," UNOCHA officer Elizabeth Marasco said in a statement.
According to UNOCHA, satellite images also found tens of thousands of people crammed inside the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sport Complex in Zamboanga City, which has been turned into an emergency evacuation center for those fleeing the fighting.
"A follow-up assessment mission to the stadium found that the people there are still struggling to make sense of what has happened to them in recent weeks. Each day they line up for food, medicines and other supplies, all of which are in increasingly short supply," the agency said.
It cited the government as saying that the sports stadium will continue to be an evacuation center until at least the end of 2013.
Similar satellite images and analysis were also made for nearby Basilan province. The images gave insight into the locations of displaced communities and the extent of damage to buildings and infrastructure, UNOCHA said.
"The real-time images and analysis have helped authorities and aid organizations measure the scale of damage, and to prepare critical projects that will help people recover as quickly as possible. Planned assistance includes debris removal, provision of health services, school rehabilitation and the construction of temporary shelters," it added.
UNOCHA has used satellite imagery mapping in similar crises such as Somalia, where violence prevents aid workers from reaching isolated communities.