City-scale damage assessment using very-high-resolution SAR satellite imagery and building survey data for the 2021 Haiti earthquake

V. Macchiarulo*, Fatemeh Foroughnia, Pietro Milillo, Michael R. Z. Whitworth, Camilla Penney, Keith Adams, Tracy Kijewski-Correa, Giorgia Giardina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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After an earthquake, a rapid identification of the damaged building stock is crucial to prioritise rescue operations, ensure primary services to the most affected regions and support reconstruction. Whilst in-situ reconnaissance missions provide invaluable data on the intensity and distribution of earthquake-induced structural damage, the process of collecting field observations is often dangerous, expensive, and is usually undertaken a few weeks after the disaster. Spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) can remotely provide imagery data of wide affected areas, enabling to reach locations that are difficult or dangerous to access with traditional survey methods. Furthermore, SAR-based observations are independent from daylight illumination and clear-weather conditions. Thanks to the recent availability of Very-High Resolution (VHR) SAR satellites, post-disaster imagery data with sub-metre resolution are now available within a few hours after a major earthquake, opening unprecedented opportunities for complementing in-situ operations. The textural analysis of post-earthquake VHR SAR images could be used to identify backscattering signatures that are likely associated with building damage. However, application has been limited by the lack of methods that correlate the textural properties of damaged structures in radar images with building survey data. In this paper, we present a method using textural features derived from VHR SAR post-event images in combination with building survey data to classify earthquake-induced building damage at city block-level. We tested the proposed method within the context of a joint Structural Extreme Event Reconnaissance (StEER), GeoHazards International (GHI) and Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) mission that followed the 2021 Haiti Earthquake. The developed method was applied to the city of Les Cayes, Haiti, using a post-event Capella SAR image acquired on the 16th of August 2021. The outcomes can positively impact future earthquake scenarios, with the potential to improve rapid disaster response and remotely aid post-earthquake reconnaissance missions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
EventSECED 2023 Conference
: Earthquake Engineering & Dynamics for a Sustainable Future
- Churchill College Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Sept 202315 Sept 2023


ConferenceSECED 2023 Conference
Abbreviated titleSECED 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • post-disaster reconnaissance
  • remote sensing
  • texture analysis


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