Natural disasters are the occasion when that fleet of metal boxes orbiting hundreds of kilometres above our heads really come into their own.
Many space agencies have signed up to something called the International Charter [on] Space and Major Disasters. It was initiated back in 2000 by ESA, and the French (Cnes) and Canadian (CSA) space agencies; but then quickly acquired other signatories including important US bodies like NOAA and the US Geological Survey.
When the Charter is activated, the signatories re-task their satellites to get the data most urgently needed in a devastated region.
Full story from the BBC Spaceman blog