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Netizens help victims via social network sites

By Jocelyn Uy, Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:52:00 09/28/2009

Filed Under: Flood, Good news, Internet, Weather, Social networking, Disasters & Accidents, blogging, Ondoy

MANILA, Philippines?Although marooned in their homes by floodwaters dumped by Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? (international code name: Ketsana), many Metro Manila residents still found the means to help strangers and neighbors stuck in traffic or perched on rooftops by turning to social networking sites on the Internet.

Residents posted alternate routes weary commuters could take to avoid the floods, emergency lines to call for rescue and the addresses of families in need of urgent assistance as communication line and power outages engulfed a large swath of the metropolis on Saturday, making it hard for calls for help to get through.

On the hugely popular social networking site Facebook, the majority of the users? status updates?a feature in which users talk about their current state of mind or recent activity?carried government hotlines people can call for rubber boats and dump trucks.

Others posted locations of either an acquaintance or a friend?s neighbor waiting for hours to be saved, mobilizing other users in their network who have easier access to government rescue to ask for help.

About to give birth

Angelica Hefti, a regular Facebook user, re-posted a status message from a certain Cynthia Ras who was alerting rescue teams about a pregnant woman about to give birth. The woman was stranded in a village in Cainta, Rizal.

Through her account, Hefti also called for help for her relatives yet to be rescued Sunday on the North Luzon Expressway. She said her relatives had been stuck in the car for almost 20 hours with no food and water.

Carmela Almonte stayed on Facebook almost all day on Saturday offering her services as a ?switchboard operator? to friends who had no cell phone signal and in need of assistance.

With communication lines down or mobile phones dead, others used Facebook to inform families, relatives and friends that they were either stuck in their offices or in schools but were safe.

Flood victims in Marikina

At tweetfeed.com, bloggers put up a discussion thread solely for flood victims in Marikina. Some of them drove to the city to offer help while others assisted in connecting stranded residents with rescue teams.

?Driving off to Marikina. Let?s see how we can help,? Francis Dadole wrote at 2:22 a.m. Sunday.

A minute earlier, Juan Miguel Lago posted an urgent message: ?Evacuate MARICRIS VALMORES and family at 8 Libya St. Marikina Green Heights Subd. Nangka, Marikina Contact number: 09159001562.?

At about the same time, Eric Calderon said he had just gone back from Marikina. He wrote: ?Distributed food & clothes to refugees stuck in our hospital. ER was filled to the brim w/ people with foot injuries.?

On Twitter, a micro-blogging site, maps were made available on the site of areas in the capital where stranded residents have yet to be rescued.

Someone tweeted for more help for residents ?still trapped? in Provident Villages, Marikina.

UST students trapped

At the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, around 3,000 students, teachers and employees were trapped on campus beginning Saturday morning.

Many of them kept contact with family and friends outside through social networking sites, such as Twitter and Plurk.

Waist-deep waters surrounded the school, submerging several cars and flooding establishments in the vicinity.

Kay Reyes posted on Facebook an earlier notice from a friend who said that she had just stepped out from her office on Shaw Boulevard-Pioneer and that the roads there were clear of traffic and floodwaters.

?This might help some of our friends in the area...I just cut and pasted this from my friend in Manila,? she said on her status message.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., head of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, gave frequent tweets or posts of numbers residents could call for help.

One advisory that Teodoro gave was of Petron and San Miguel Corp. lending choppers to whisk off stranded residents from rooftops. He also enumerated drop-off points for relief goods.

Donations

On the Barrio Siete website, a blogger called on fellow ?bloggers, readers and lurkers? to send in donations through the Philippine National Red Cross.

As of Sunday, the site was able to raise $170 from Philadelphia, Texas and Ohio in the United States.

?It breaks our heart seeing all these images and watching the videos coming from Manila?the wrath and devastation not only to properties but also to the lives of our fellow Filipinos,? the blogger wrote.

Other websites, such as Pedestrian Observer and Filipino Voices, showed how the public could send donations to the Red Cross and contact local rescue units.

?It is during times like these when we realize how powerful social media can be in the absence of conventional networks,? Jayvee Hernandez wrote on The Blog Herald.

Despite the devastation, Royce Roy of San Francisco, California, posted a message of optimism to his compatriots back home.

?The Philippines shall rise again from Typhoon Ondoy, a better and brighter country! God Bless my motherland!? he wrote.



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