Saturday, December 5, 2015

Social Media Tools showed its strength of helping people in disaster during Chennai floods in India

Chennai is the one of beautiful city and state headquarters of Tamilnadu state in southern part of India. It has 400-500 feet wide marina drive for 15 kilometers, beautiful temples and a fort with British rule history.  The many parts of the state is now suffering from floods due to heavy torrential rain.  People of Chennai city are the worst sufferer.  The city has witnessed the heaviest rainfall seen in a century. Climate experts are describing this disaster due to El Nino effect. However, the fact remains that the 19 water reservoirs covering 2000 hectares of land in 1980 has now reduced to 645 hectares only. Thus, the water bearing capacity in 645 hectares have reduced to a large extent.  In such a devastating disaster, the communication is more important which should be mainly related to flood and relief work, information about relatives etc. The social media tools Facebook, Twitter and Google are helping people at large in bridging the communication gap.

Social networking giant Facebook has activated its Safety Check feature in Chennai. Facebook, which has its second largest user base in India, activated the feature to allow people mark themselves as "safe" from the floods. A click or tap on the “I’m Safe” button lets friends and loved ones know straight away. Users can also check to see whether their friends are safe too.

Fundraising campaigns are also afoot on social networking websites to help the people in need. “Help us get food and other essentials to those stranded in Chennai due to floods,” reads a link shared by a Facebook user, Satish Sabapathi.

#ChennaiFloods remained as one of the top trend hashtags in India on Twitter through the week. This handle was used for information sharing about relatives and their locality, information about safe places, information of food and civil supplies and other relief works. The other hashtags are  #chennairains, #chennaivolunteer, #chennairescue and #chennairainshelp and many more created by local people. These handle is also a source of information for volunteer and Government.

In an effort to provide all critical information related to floods in the city at one place, Google has created the Crisis Response tool — “South India Flooding” — which enables users access to emergency helpline numbers, flooded streets, relief centers, crowdsourced list of places and people offering shelter, map of crowdsourced flooded streets and other such important information. A crowdsourced Google spreadsheet started by Chennai residents has become one of the most popular platforms for relief efforts. It lists the shelters and aid being offered by volunteers, requirements as well as rescue.
A website, has put out a list of places that are offering accommodation and food to people affected by rains.
Telecom operators have also come forward to help people, offering free talk time and data usage to help them stay connected. BSNL and SSTL are providing free data upload and talk time in the Tamil Nadu circle.
During the disaster in Chennai, the Social Media Tools have demonstrated their capacity to help people in disaster in spite of the fact that disaster monitoring agencies are yet to be equipped with these tools for better disaster management.

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