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Some 30,000 people may have been killed in the Pakistan earthquake, with a further 43,000 injured and up to five million people left homeless – rivalling the numbers displaced by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

New Scientist explains that rescue workers equipped with a battery of sophisticated sensing tools have helped free survivors trapped beneath buildings destroyed in the earthquake that shook northern Pakistan on Saturday.

Teams from the US, the UK, Japan, China, France, Hungary and the United Arab Emirates have travelled to Pakistan’s mountainous north to help recover those still trapped following Saturday’s quake and 144 aftershocks.

The earthquake struck at 0850 local time (0350 GMT) on Saturday, with the epicentre close to the city of Muzaffarabad in northern Pakistan.

A UK charity called Rescue and Preparedness in Disasters (RAPID), based in Gloucester, has sent two teams to the region. Underground sounds The RAPID workers are equipped with several tools, including an acoustic sensor which can pick up the sound of someone tapping beneath debris. The apparatus pinpoints their location by triangulating microphones.

Rescue units also carry equipment that senses slight changes in carbon dioxide and oxygen levels. The tubes are fed under the rubble to detect people breathing.

A miniature camera connected to a long cable, known as Snake Eye, can be fed between cracks in debris to spot any survivors.

But perhaps the most important tool available is decidedly less high-tech. Sniffer dogs are the quickest way to locate trapped survivors, alerting rescuers the moment they pick up the scent. “Dogs are the best,” a spokesman from RAPID told New Scientist. “They respond to scent and give an audible sound as well.

Motorola is contributing $500,000 to the relief efforts, which includes financial support to UNICEF and emergency telecommunication equipment for the region. Sensors Magazine has more on the technology.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Katrina Telecom, Ham Radio, WiMax: Trial By Fire, Tsunami Mapping, Tsunami Monitoring, Tsunami Warning Ideas, and Webcam Situation Report.

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