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World

From Space, Lights Dims In Syria As People Flee War

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Civil War in Syria has left few independent sources to trust within that country. This makes the numbers of the dead, the starving and those who have fled hard to assess and then hard to fathom. Two researchers at Wuhan University in China, Xi Li and Deren Li, have used a more elevated approach to cataloging the ruin - observing it from space. Their study examines data captured by special U.S. satellites that monitor nighttime light on earth. Assessing pictures of Syria at night from before the crisis broke out in 2011 all the way to February of 2014, they found nighttime light declined sharply across the region during that time period. Of course there are many reasons for darkness in war - buildings destroyed by bombs, power outages. But one correlation, the researchers found, was between loss of light and loss of people - those internally displaced by the conflict. As fewer journalists can operate within a country filled with competing dangers, the research suggests that we might rely at least on the objective unblinking eyes in the sky as the lights continue to dim in Syria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.