MCEER Earthquake Reconnaissance Investigation

Preliminary Field Report: Post-Tsunami Urban Damage Survey in Thailand, Using the VIEWS Reconnaissance System

Prepared by:

Shubharoop Ghosh, Charles K. Huyck, Beverley J. Adams and Ronald T. Eguchi

ImageCat, Inc. 400 Oceangate, Suite 1050, Long Beach, 90802

Fumio Yamazaki

Chiba University, I-33 Yayoi-cho, Inage-ku, Chiba 263-8522, Japan

and Masashi Matsouka

Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Research Center, 2465-1 Mikiyama, Miki, Hyogo673-0433, Japan


On 26 Dec 2004, 00:58:53 UTC, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The epicenter was located beneath the Indian Ocean at 3.307°N 95.947°E. The earthquake triggered a series of tsunamis in the region that devastated communities along thousands of miles of exposed coastline. Ranked as one of the most catastrophic events in recent times, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused significant damage in 11 countries and resulted in over 200,000 deaths. Countless others were rendered homeless, or left without basic lifelines and amenities.

The Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) joined a multi-lateral Thailand-Japanese reconnaissance team to investigate the effects of the Tsunami disaster in Thailand. Of the affected nations, Thailand was selected as the destination based on a preliminary assessment of potential casualties in the region by ImageCat using remote sensing data1 and media reports of >5,300 deaths, destruction of multiple tourist destinations, and >US$500 million damage to the nations shrimp industry. The reconnaissance team was led by Professor Fumio Yamazaki of Chiba University in Chiba, Japan and Dr. Pennung Warnitchai of the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand. Shubharoop Ghosh of ImageCat, Inc. represented MCEER. Other researchers in the team included Dr. Masahiko Honzawa of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Dr. Masashi Matsuoka of Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Research Center (EDM), Kobe, Japan.

The objective of this field deployment was to collect perishable information about building and lifeline damage characteristics. The field-based damage assessment was conducted using the VIEWS (Visualizing the Impacts of Earthquakes With Satellites). These ground-based observations can be later used to validate damage characteristics identified on satellite imagery. It is envisioned that such perishable data will be invaluable for future research in evaluating damage from Tsunami hazards.

VIEWS is a notebook-based system, which integrates GPS-registered digital video footage, digital photographs and observations with high-resolution satellite imagery collected before and after a disaster. VIEWS was previously used in reconnaissance activities following the 2003 Bam, Iran earthquake, Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Ivan that hit the Gulf coast in 2004, and the Niigata, Japan earthquake in October 2004.

The following preliminary field report begins with a brief overview of the field study sites. It goes on to document damage survey activities that were conducted, together with methodologies employed for data collection. It includes a discussion on the satellite imagery and other data that were available from various sources. The resulting data sets from the survey are presented. The report summarizes preliminary findings through a selection of illustrative examples, which were extracted using the MCEER funded D-VRS system.

Survey Sites

The post-tsunami damage assessment was conducted in three south-western provinces of Thailand (Figure 1): Phang Nga; Krabi; and Phuket. Survey site selection was made in consultation with Dr. Pennung Warnitchai of the Asian Institute of Technology, and was based on media reports of areas experiencing severe damage (particularly where the key industries of tourism and fisheries were hard hit), and areas for which “before” and “after” Quickbird satellite imagery was available.

image of field study regions

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Figure 1: Field Study regions of Phang Nga, Phi Phi Island, and Phuket, which sustained heavy tsunami damage after the Sumatra Earthquake of 26 December, 2004


Damage Survey using VIEWS Reconnaissance System

Data Collection

The field survey was conducted using the VIEWS system from a moving vehicle and on foot (see Figure 2), depending on vehicular access to impacted areas. Access to selected study areas in general did not prove to be a significant limitation; admittance to the heavily damaged sites did not require special authorization. However, the areas surveyed within the three provinces were spread wide apart, and traveling to and from the study sites proved to be time consuming.

To conduct survey from a moving vehicle, a van was selected by the team, since it provided increased elevation above street level, and better coverage by avoiding obstructions in the foreground. The vehicle was driven at around 10-15 mph, as this speed allowed the video coverage and stills to be obtained with a lesser degree of aberration, while enabling a large geographic extent to be covered. More in-depth damage assessments were conducted on foot.

For this deployment, a new data collection approach was adopted (Figure 2) by deploying three video cameras that simultaneously captured footage for three directions (front, left, and right) in some heavily affected areas. This streamlined the video collection process and provided a wider view of the area. An alternative handheld-based approach was also tested for collecting GPS points. A Garmin iQue® Handheld with built-in GPS receiver was used to collect GPS points in the survey sites where VIEWS was deployed. 11 hours of digital video footage was recorded during the reconnaissance route that covered >50 kms. A library of about 1500 digital photographs was also collected by the team.

Photo of single deployment Photo of multiple deployment
(a) VIEWS deployment with one camera

(b) VIEWS deployment with three cameras

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Figure 2 Field deployment of the VIEWS system following Tsunamis in Thailand (a) Using a single video camera (b) Using multiple video cameras


Satellite Data and Other Base Data Available for the Survey

The screen shot of the VIEWS User interface in Figure 3 demonstrates how the satellite images serve as the mapping base layer. Through the real-time GPS feed, routes taken around the damaged areas were logged and overlaid on a vector-based street map. Georeferenced building damage and impacted area observations were recorded using the GPS-linked digital video recorder. A georeferenced photographic record was also collected, illustrating in detail, damage characteristics from the Tsunami.


screen shot of interface

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Figure 3 User interface for the VIEWS system, deployed to collect building damage data in Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand


Satellite imagery was made available to the field investigation team from multiple sources. ImageCat obtained high resolution “before” and “after” Quickbird imagery from Digitalglobe for Patong Beach area of Phuket, Thailand. Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), Thailand provided the following datasets in ECW format for visualizing impacts and general navigation purposes:

GISTDA also provided street and province boundary data in shape file format for field investigation team.

Preliminary Findings

Phang Nga Province

Areas in Phang Nga province surveyed included tourist resort areas in Khao Lak, and fisherman’s villages in the Ban Nam Khem area and Ban Pracho in Ko Prathong. With its long and narrow stretch of coastline, Khao Lak was the one of the hardest hit tourist destinations in Thailand. Resort locations surveyed included: the Similana Resort; the Bamboo Orchid Resort; and Le Meridian Khaolak. Tablamu Pier in Khao Lak was also surveyed as a part of the reconnaissance mission. Survey efforts also focused on collecting damage information within fishing industry centers of Ban Nam Khem and Ban Pacho.

Figure 4 (a) through (c) depicts the routes through Khao Lak area in Phang Nga province along which GPS readings, georeferenced video coverage and photographic record were collected. Reportedly, these are areas recorded tsunami wave heights of up to11 meters. Most of the resorts surveyed sustained heavy to very heavy damage.


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Figure 4 VIEWS reconnaissance routes in Khao Lak (a) Pakarang Cape routes and the devastated Bamboo Orchid Resort, (b) Mid-Khao Lak routes and photos of destroyed buildings, (c) Lower Khao Lak routes and Similana Resort photographs

Phi Phi Island in Krabi Province

Figure 5 depicts the locations on the Phi Hi Island where GPS readings, georeferenced video coverage and photographic record were collected including photographs of damage sustained. Phi Phi Island is located about 48 kms southeast of Phuket in the Anadaman Sea. The island of Phi Phi suffered extensive damage, with most resorts in Ton Sai bay closed in the aftermath of the huge waves that swept across the island. The reconnaissance team surveyed two locations on the island including the Ton Sai Bay area where most damage was reported.




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Figure 5 Locations on Phi Phi Island where VIEWS was deployed. (a) Phi Island Survey Routes, (b) Destroyed shopping street, (c) Showing water level inside a completely destroyed shop, (d) Destroyed resort in Ton Sai Bay


Phuket Province

Areas in Phuket province surveyed included tourist resort areas in Bang Tao Bay, Kamala Beach, Patong Beach, Karon Beach, and Kata Beach. Phuket is primarily a tourist destination, with beaches lined with hotels and shopping. Damage observed in Bang Tao Bay and Kamala Beach was heavy, following reported wave heights of 5-6m. Shops along the beach front in Patong beach were observed to have sustained moderate to heavy damage with majority of those closed for repair or debris cleanup. Damage to buildings along the beaches in Karong and Kata beaches appeared was less than for the beaches further north e.g. Patong beach, Kamala beach. Figure 6(a) below depicts the routes along which GPS readings, georeferenced video coverage and photographic record were collected. Figures 6(b) through 6(d) are a selection of digital photographs showing damage in areas surveyed in Phuket.




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Figure 6 VIEWS reconnaissance routes in Phuket. (a) Phuket Survey Routes, (b) Kamala Beach damage, (c) Alley near Patong beach with debris brought by the waves, (d) Cordoned off shopping areas along Patong beach to help cleanup operations


Preliminary Damage Visualization using D-VRS

In order to integrate, share, visualize, and ultimately analyze post-disaster reconnaissance field data collected using VIEWS, MCEER funded the development of tandem internet- and desktop-based ‘virtual reconnaissance systems’, referred to as VRS and D-VRS. Figure 7 shows a screen grab from D-VRS, which provides researchers with easy access to the satellite imagery, GPS readings and georeferenced video and photographic records for the survey sites. The User has an option to toggle between multitemporal and multi-source satellite images, and to explore these images in detail using zoom and pan functions. These images are overlaid with GPS routes collected during the survey. By selecting a GPS point, the User can view corresponding video footage and scroll through the photographic archive in the adjacent windows. The photographic library can be augmented with stills captured directly from the video as it plays, each of which is output to a new georeferenced file.

screen shot with three windows

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Figure 7 Screen shot from the D-VRS virtual reconnaissance system, showing satellite imagery, GPS readings, video footage and digital photographs collected in Khao Lak, Thailand

For this study, a multi-look angle version of visualization interface was developed by ImageCat. From Figure 8, three windows (front, left, and right) play video footage from the three cameras that were simultaneously deployed within heavily affected areas. This video collection and visualization process provides an enhanced field of view.

screen shot with four windows

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Figure 8 Screen shot from the D-VRS virtual reconnaissance system, showing satellite imagery, GPS readings, video footage from three video cameras collected in Khao Lak, Thailand.


Adams, Beverley J., Huyck, Charles K., and Mansouri, Babak (2004). Streamlining Post-Earthquake Data Collection and Damage Assessment in Bam, Using VIEWS (Visualizing the Impacts of Earthquakes with Satellite Images).

Adams, Beverley J., Womble, J. Arn, Mio, Michael Z., Turner, John B., Mehta, Kishor C. and Ghosh, Shubharoop (2004). Collection of Satellite–referenced Building Damage Information in the Aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

Huyck, C., Scawthorn, C., Bardet, Jean-Pierre, Kayen, R., Kawamata, Y., Olshanky, R., Somerville, P., Mori, J., Rathje, E., Bay, J., Jibson, R., Kelson, K., Pack R., Nishi, N. (2005). Preliminary Observations on the Niigata Ken Chuetsu, Japan. Earthquake of October 23, 2004. EERI Newsletter, January 2005 Volume 39, Number 1.


1 Areas of potential devastation was identified by cross referencing population data from NOAA’s DMSP sensor with wave height modeled by Vasily Titov at NOAA and proximity to the coastline.