#CHENNAIFLOODS – How Social Media came to the rescue

Chennai was pounded by the worst rains in nearly a century couple of weeks ago, with heavy downpour leaving most parts of the city under water. Several parts of the state of Tamil Nadu were lashed by torrential rains.

Streets, bridges were submerged in some area of city the water level was above 1st floor leaving cars fully drowned in water and people with no way to leave their homes. Print edition of ‘The Hindu’

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was not published 1st time since 1878, gives idea of severe flood situation in Chennai

Facebook activated its safety check for people in Chennai, Google collated resources for help and posted on its homepage and also guided people via maps showing flooded streets.

Google FB

Google FB

The reasons for this situation of city will be discussed and debated for days to come, but in the critical situation of Chennai rains, I wanted to write about how people of Chennai came out voluntarily and helped their drowning city and its people, effectively leveraging social media. A smartphone with an internet connection was the biggest saviour.

Life is the most important thing in cases of natural calamities? When an earthquake strikes? During a flood? It’s not money. It’s not even goods. To ensure survival, availability of the “correct information” is vital. Information about which locations are safe, where food and essential supplies can be available and who needs help etc.

And who has this information? It’s the people on the ground. In the case of the Chennai floods at least, mobile internet proved to be a life saver. Information crisscrossed the city of Chennai at record speed.

Twitter worked as the most powerful medium. On Twitter, locals sent SOS messages seeking rescue from their flooded homes, using

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hashtags such as #ChennaiRains, #ChennaiFloods and #ChennaiRainsHelp.

TwitterIndia also helped with posting official hashtags to be used for asking/giving out help. And this was the 1st time I saw TwitterIndia promoting a hashtag for a cause.

Twitter India1

Twitter India1

Trends like #ICanAccommodate, #ChennaiMicro(for food help/need), #Chennairescue, #Areaupdate(for current situation of roads, flood water level, shops open etc.) gave concrete information to people about which area they could expect help from, along with hashtags like #VolunteerForChennai to urge others to help.

Facebook emerged as an important source of reaching out for help for many people in Chennai. Users posted status messages with contact numbers about friends, family, who are caught in affected areas and in need of rescue or medical help. And teams on ground used that information to carry out their rescue operations. Facebook was flooded with posts of offering shelter, food, and even mobile recharges for people stranded in floods.

The huge help social media provided in rescue operations, getting food, shelter, medicines for people and Chennai’s unity and resilience can be seen in a poem shared by a Mr. Deepan on Facebook.

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