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Article Released Tue-18th-October-2005 10:21 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Satellite images of Pakistan quake zone suppressed

High-resolution satellite images of the recent earthquake in Pakistan have been pulled from the websites of international agencies and relief organizations.

VOL.437 NO.7062 DATED 20 OCTOBER 2005

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News: Satellite images of Pakistan quake zone suppressed

High-resolution satellite images of the recent earthquake in Pakistan have
been pulled from the websites of international agencies and relief

A News story in this week's Nature describes how the International Charter
on Space and Major Disasters, a consortium of space agencies that supplies
satellite images and data to the relief community, put images of the
earthquake zone on its website last Friday, then suddenly pulled them all
off again.

An official at the charter alleges that the Pakistan government put pressure
on the United Nations (UN) to remove images from public websites because of
security concerns. The earthquake occurred in Kashmir, a region that has
long been a site of conflict between Pakistan and India. The UN and other
relief organizations need Pakistan's cooperation on the ground, so had no
choice but to comply, the official says.

This version of events is supported by a senior European Union (EU)
official, who says that last week the UN, EU and other international
agencies scrapped their policy of making all such images publicly available
and removed high-res photos of the area from their sites. Images of the
earthquake zone would instead be distributed on a "need to know" basis to
affiliated organizations, says the official.

But the images are also essential for other local organizations working in
the area, and professionals worldwide helping out over the Internet. The
Citizens Foundation, for example, is a well-respected Pakistan organization
providing basic care packages including tents, blankets and food rations to
those affected. But Ayaz Abdulla and others at the organization have spent
much of the last week desperately e-mailing space agencies and commercial
suppliers to try to obtain the images they need. Abdulla says high-res
satellite images are essential to planning relief logistics, such as working
out what roads are open and locating isolated settlements.

Contact for background information:
Declan Butler (Journalist, Nature)
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Media contact:
Katharine Mansell, Nature London
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Keywords associated to this article: earthquake, Pakistan, satelite images
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