The year 2020 was full of bad news, and Maxar Tech’s satellites captured a lot of it

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The year 2020 was full of bad news, and Maxar Tech’s satellites captured a lot of it

Posted December 27, 2020 05:48:14

The year just gone will be remembered as one filled with particularly dire news.

2020 featured incredible upheaval around the world thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as its fill of natural and man-made disasters.

Through it all, the scale of the disruption and destruction was captured from the sky by Maxar Technologies, a US space tech company that specialises in Earth observation.

Here are the best before-and-after photos as seen by Maxar’s satellites.

Australia, US and refugee camps ravaged by fire

The year opened in traumatising fashion for many Australians, with particularly intense summer bushfires that scorched millions of hectares and rendered the air unbreathable for many on the east coast.

This image captured above Orbost in Victoria on January 4 shows the intensity of the blaze beneath thick smoke, with orange indicating active fire, blue for vegetation that is still alive and black for that which has already been burned.

More than 12.6 million hectares were burnt across the country, with 434 million tonnes of CO2 emitted and over a billion animals killed.

It wasn’t just Australia that braved terrible blazes, with many areas in the United States battling wildfires across its central west and Pacific coast in September.

The image below shows the East Troublesome Fire — the second largest in recorded Colorado history — burning in the Rocky Mountains’ Moraine Park.

Meanwhile, a fire of a different sort forced thousands of asylum seekers to move to a temporary facility after a blaze destroyed a camp in Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The fire left more than 12,000 people — most of them refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and various African countries — without shelter, sanitation or access to food and water.

COVID-19 sparks construction rush, global slowdown and mass graves

The global COVID-19 pandemic saw unprecedented shutdowns and health restrictions imposed as nations around the world battled to contain the novel coronavirus.

The rapid rise of infections in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, saw an incredible construction of an emergency hospital within 10 days, according to Chinese state media.

The image above shows the Huoshenshan facility, before and after the completion of construction in what is thought to be the epicentre of the pandemic.

Global aviation came to a virtual standstill as governments curtailed travel, resulting in grounded airplanes parked nose to tail around the world.

Maxar Technologies’ satellites were instrumental in helping the New York Times reveal evidence of mass burial pits in the Iranian city of Qom.

This image shows the Beheshte Masoumeh Cemetery in Qom, with burial trenches dug near a pile of white lime.

Researchers and investigators outside of Iran had expressed distrust in Iran’s official COVID-19 death and infection statistics.

Global religious gatherings were also forced into cancellation due to the pandemic, with the Grand Mosque in Mecca closed in April, while St Peter’s Square in Rome was empty for Palm Sunday.

One detonation brings down an embassy, another lays waste to Beirut

An unusual story emerged out of North Korea in June when the North-South Joint Liaison Office was intentionally detonated on the country’s border with South Korea.

It came in the wake of Pyongyang threatening action if defector groups continued to send propaganda leaflets into the country.

But nothing compared to the detonation that rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut on August 4, when a large fire caused 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in the city’s port to explode, sending a massive shockwave through the city.

The Red Cross reported more than 6,500 people were injured and more than 200 were killed, with three days of mourning declared in the wake of the incident which left the port section of the city devastated.

Ecological disasters witnessed from space

Japanese bulk carrier the MV Wakashio ran aground on coral reefs southeast of Mauritius in July, spilling at least 1,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

Oil containment booms were set up to try to contain the oil slick, emanating from the ship seen in the top left of this image.

The operator of the carrier revealed in December that the ship altered course to sail closer to shore than planned so its crewmembers could get mobile phone signals.

Satellites also captured another huge oil slick in Siberia, which prompted a state of emergency declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

An estimated 21,000 tonnes of diesel fuel spilled from a power plant storage facility in the city of Norilsk, 2,900 kilometres north-east of Moscow, in an accident that experts say will take “decades” to clear.

As seen in the image above, the spill caused the Ambarnaya River to turn red, with clean-up operations using containment booms visible as crews attempted to prevent the slick from flowing downstream.

Investigators believe the leak may have been caused by unusually warm weather which may have melted the permafrost that the storage tank was sitting on.

Telescope collapses, earthquakes and hurricanes level cities

An earthquake in the Aegean Sea caused buildings to collapse in Turkey’s third-largest city, with the death toll rising to at least 75 people and almost 1,000 numbering among the injured.

The magnitude 7.0 quake reduced buildings in Izmir to rubble. Rescue workers are visible in the image above as they attend to a collapsed building.

Also in November, two hurricanes followed similar paths to each other, headed for Central and South America, with Hurricane Eta making landfall in Nicaragua as a category 4 storm, and Hurricane Iota smashing into the small Colombian island of Providencia.

Providencia copped a category 5 storm, with nearly all infrastructure on the island damaged or destroyed.

The image above shows houses on Providencia smashed in the wake of the storm on the northern part of the island.

Finally, the long-servicing Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico — made famous for its contributions to space science as well as appearances in Hollywood films — collapsed completely after crucial support cables snapped.

Two auxiliary cables supporting the reflector dish broke for unknown reasons in August, before the huge structure gave in completely in early December, in a collapse caught on video.

The telescope owner said it would not be rebuilt.

Topics: world-politics, covid-19, diseases-and-disorders, health, australia, china, lebanon

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