Between November 2020 and February 2021, a DRR-Team mission provided remote support to Guatemalan authorities during the cyclone Iota in Central America, where Guatemala was hit heavily. HKV was the project coordinator in a consortium of collaborating counterparts that included Aveco De Bondt and 510, a Netherlands Red Cross initiative. The aim was to support the authorities in risk mapping and impact assessment by developing an online platform to give insight into useful satellite-based information for crisis management by the involved Guatemalan authorities. DRR-Team was able to cluster relevant data in a very short time frame and make it available through this platform, which is still in operation. In this platform, HKV provided an integrated overview of hurricane Iota’s behaviour, related landslide and flood risks for crisis management by the involved Guatemalan authorities. Because the data is open-source, the approach is easily expanded (to include additional datasets). As such, this approach could serve as a blueprint for other risk mapping exercises in emergencies.

Following the mapping exercise, the DRR-Team received a request to provide training sessions on using the data platform. These sessions were very well-attended and included Guatemalan counterparts and users from many neighbouring countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. The audience included public sector officials and aid organisation representatives. Private sector players like large farming corporations were looking for flood resilient solutions for their specific assets and resources. They brought together the support of, for example, the Guatemalan Red Cross, the Netherlands Embassy in Costa Rica and the consulate in Guatemala.

In 2019 HKV has provided similar support to Mozambique authorities during and following cyclone Idai in the framework of the DSS water programme. This approach and its deliverables were also very suitable for the situation with regard to cyclone Iota.

Freek Huthoff is Senior Consultant for Rivers, Coasts and Deltas for HKV and DRR-Team leader for this virtual deployment. “One of our big takeaways following Idai in Mozambique and Iota in Central-America is that it really adds value to have a technical team in place that can provide remote support and valuable data away from the hectic scene on the ground with many organisations that are all trying to mobilise their activities and resources.” He continues, “The true value of our presence – even remotely – is the fact that there is a dedicated, versatile team that can gather the available (open-source) data, and cluster it in such a way that it becomes accessible and usable for a diverse group of people on the ground.” Freek also points out that these exchanges are not just about providing a service, but that “we, as Dutch water experts, also learn so much from these experiences. These type of high-impact flood events, we usually do not experience in The Netherlands.”

For more information on this DRR-Team mission, please read HKV’s news item on Remote technical support during hurricane Iota. The item also includes an example of the hazard maps provided.