Mapping the scale of damage by the catastrophic Pakistan floods
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: AJ Labs, Al Jazeera Digital
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 2022-09-16
Authors: Alia Chughtai with additional reporting from Balochistan by Saadullah Akhter.
Alia Chughtai is a senior interactive producer with Al Jazeera’s AJ Labs data journalism team based in Pakistan.
During the summer of 2022, weeks of torrential rains and flash floods ravaged Pakistan killing more than 1,500 people and affecting at least 33 million more.
Pakistan’s climate change minister called the extreme weather “the monster monsoon of the decade”.
Following the record storms many across Pakistan were looking for answers. What caused the floods, where were the worst-affected regions, and what lessons were learned from 2010 – when similar flooding ravaged Pakistan, killing more than 1,700.
Al Jazeera analysed satellite images, gathered on-the-ground testimonies and spoke with local climate experts who helped us visualise and accurately answer these questions.
This immersive story broke down in great detail quantifiable ways of measuring the scale of destruction. This project was also one of our most viewed stories about the Pakistan floods and formed a basis for all recovery stories that continued throughout the year.
The story predominantly relied on analysing satellite images as well as drone footage from sources on the ground. The tools/technologies include: MapBox, Illustrator and Flourish.
Every day we updated the death toll, injuries and damage caused by the floods by utlising Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority database.
These images, videos, image sliders, graphics and text were then compiled into an interactive longform for desktop and mobile.
Context about the project:
The hardest part of the project was keeping it from being outdated. The flood waters were constantly rising and the movement of people made it hard to pinpoint which locations were most affected.
Limited data from the Pakistani government due to hard to reach places also made it difficult to paint a complete picture of the situation on the ground.
We had to rely heavily on satellite data and local journalists on ground, who were not always connected on cell networks due to the power cuts particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.
Accurately measuring the impact of the floods thus became an act of patience. Even though the most severe floods occurred in Balochistan during August 17-20, we had to wait a few days in order to access those affected people as well as gather the drone imagery needed to tell the story.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
Know your climate scientists, local and regional, know your local/regional laws as far as natural disasters are concerned, and make sure what an international scientist is saying is verified by a local one, as the local one knows more about what’s happening on ground.