When flooding occurs, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery is often used to identify flood extent and the affected buildings for two reasons: (i) for early disaster response, such as rescue operations, and (ii) for flood risk analysis. Furthermore, the application of machine learning has been valuable for the identification of damaged buildings. However, the performance of machine learning depends on the number and quality of training data, which is scarce in the aftermath of a large scale disaster. To address this issue, we propose the use of fragmentary but reliable news media photographs at the time of a disaster and use them to detect the whole extent of the flooded buildings. As an experimental test, the flood occurred in the town of Mabi, Japan, in 2018 is used. Five hand-engineered features were extracted from SAR images acquired before and after the disaster. The training data were collected based on news photos. The date release of the photographs were considered to assess the potential role of news information as a source of training data. Then, a discriminant function was calibrated using the training data and the support vector machine method. We found that news information taken within 24 h of a disaster can classify flooded and nonflooded buildings with about 80% accuracy. The results were also compared with a standard unsupervised learning method and confirmed that training data generated from news media photographs improves the accuracy obtained from unsupervised classification methods. We also provide a discussion on the potential role of news media as a source of reliable information to be used as training data and other activities associated to early disaster response.
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