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Google street view images help analyze earthquake damage

Oct. 30, 2013 at 5:09 PM

COLOGNE, Germany, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Images of buildings damaged in an earthquake in Italy -- including Google online street view scans -- suggest a survey tool for future temblors, scientists say.

Klaus-G. Hinzen, a seismologist with Cologne University in Germany -- studying images of damage from the magnitude 6.3 2009 L'Aquila earthquake in the Italian Abruzzi Mountains -- realized Google street views taken less than one year before the earthquake provided an unexpected source of before-and-after data to measure the extent and types of damage to buildings and other structures.

Using Google Earth software to map the exact locations of numerous photos of damaged constructions, Henzen was able to compare them with earlier Google street view images.

Writing in the journal Seismological Research Letters, Hinzen said the contrasting images provided by Google street views of buildings and survey photos taken afterward helped distinguish the damage caused by the quake from cracks or plaster breaks resulting from previous lack of building maintenance or disrepair.

Any planned systematic survey of earthquake damage could benefit from the use of Google street view if such images are available for the area under investigation, he said.

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