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  • Feye Andal- UP Resilience Institute Youth Mappers- UP Resilience Institute

Disaster Activation for Turkey and Syria.

Mapping for Turkey and Syria – what is it like?

A powerful earthquake struck Southern Turkey west of Gaziantep last 6 February 2023 at 04:17 AM TRT (01:17 UTC), causing widespread damages in Turkey and Syria. With a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent) and a magnitude of 7.8 Mww, it is tied with the 1939 Erzincan earthquake as the strongest earthquake to hit Turkey in recorded history. More than 41,000 people are known to have been killed, and more than 6,300 were injured.

Through the years, disasters demonstrated the need for collaborative geospatial data to help local communities and disaster responders better understand the catastrophes we face. Readily available crowdsourced maps are crucial in informing and preparing the general public.

As an OSM volunteer, I know the significance of assisting communities during these critical times. When I read the news on Twitter, I was shocked at the extent of the damage it brought. I have colleagues from Turkey like Can Unen and Said Tursever, so I contacted them to ask if they needed help from us.

From there on, I have been checking the updates and all correspondences from the international coordinating team. After super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, I think this is the most extensive disaster activation I have been involved in.

Through UPRI YouthMappers, I started organizing mapathons to help map the affected areas in southern Turkey. I also invited all local chapters of YouthMappers in the Philippines to join the first mapathon we hosted to get all the help needed. I was glad that the student mappers and volunteers were available to help when I called for the urgent mapathon.

I am also delighted that our chapter adviser, Dr. Mahar Lagmay, understands the importance of disaster mitigation and the urgent need for a response. He requested we conduct an internal mapathon at UP Resilience Institute and mobilize our in-house mappers to help map the affected areas.

I have observed and learned the following throughout my involvement:

What works well?

  • Coordination with the international community is superb! Various organizations are working on disaster response and operations. For instance, YouthMappers and its local chapters are supporting disaster activations through online, hybrid, and face-to-face mapathons, information dissemination (especially those HOT Tasking Manager tasks, Maproulette challenges)

  • Resources are available such as open-source satellite images, damage assessment, and analysis


  • Mapping with AI

  • Not all areas have AI-detected buildings and roads (like in Syria), so manual mapping of the structures is still needed. I only learned about this while running the internal mapathon at UPRI. I wondered why some TM projects did not activate the RapiD editor, so I messaged the international coordinating team about this. Cane confirmed that there is no coverage of AI in Syria 🙁

  • There is relatively good coverage of AI-detected buildings and roads in Turkey, especially in the rural areas. However, the quality degrades in the urban areas/cities

AI-detected Buildings and Roads in Urban Area

  • Some notes for mappers:

    • MapwithAI is a powerful and helpful tool for OSM mapping, but human intervention is essential. MapwithAI learns from us by (un)approving their AI detections.

    • While we know checking each structure (mainly the building footprint!) is very tedious, patience comes in. It is essential to check and verify each structure instead of selecting all AI-detected structures and importing them directly to OSM

    • As for the roads, OSM values the connection of the road network. AI-detected roads still need to be connected to OSM, so we do additional work connecting them to the existing OSM road network. Also, most AI-detected roads are tagged as residential roads in some areas. We have to do some re-tagging, especially if these roads are in the mountains (can be tracks, footpaths, etc.)

  • Validations needed

    • We know open geospatial data is vital during disaster response. However, it is essential to note that quality geospatial data is equally important. During these massive disaster activations, there is a need for immense contributions from the OSM community. However, there is an unequal ratio of beginner, intermediate, and advanced mappers. We do not want to exhaust our validators. We need to make efforts to build our beginner mappers' skills so that they can also help validate OSM data.

If you want to contribute to our mapping efforts, these resources are available:

About the Author

Feye Andal is a geospatial analyst and project manager based in Quezon City, Philippines. She focuses on helping purpose-driven organizations create powerful social impacts through open data and free and open-source software (FOSS). She has also served as a Regional Ambassador for YouthMappers from 2020-2022.


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