International rescue teams and locals throughout Nepal are still searching for the missing following last Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
This would be a difficult process anywhere. In Nepal, the country’s mountainous landscape has made things more difficult still, but making it hard to access many affected areas. Rescue teams need open spaces to land helicopters, especially in spots like the trekking area to the north of Kathmandu, where 200 people are feared missing following a landslide Tuesday. In remote areas, routes into communities may be badly mapped, or not mapped at all.
This is where you come in. Yes, you. First, in donating if you can to the rescue efforts -–more on that here. But there’s also something you can do, for free, from your own computer (even if the fan’s dodgy and it crashes when you’ve got more than ten tabs open): make maps.
Don’t panic, this is much easier than it sounds. A site called OpenStreetMap allows volunteers to work from satellite imagery to create maps of previously uncharted territory on an open-source, global map. Using the tools on the site you can trace out buildings and mark out large open spaces where the terrain looks flat enough for a helicopter to land.