CHENNAI: It’s been hours (days?) since several areas of the city plunged into darkness, but despite being powerless and phones not seeing a bar of signal for hours on end, the world of social media never sleeps. WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter are perpetually up, with messages about 1,500 kilos of supplies coming in from Bengaluru, 60 water bottle crates in Thiruvanmiyur and 1,000 food parcels in Mandaveli. But to deliver the same to the needy has been a true challenge and social media has risen to the occasion.
Users like Karthik Lakshmanan helped out by asking which was the best route to reach North Chennai from Mylapore to deliver aid (through beach road, came the reply) and whether buses were operating from Chennai to Bengaluru and back (yes).
With donors struggling to find people who can actually deliver aid to places in say, North Chennai (still badly hit), links like http://chennairains.org/aid-available/provide people with a collated list of things that people have and are ready to donate, be it blankets, money or mobile recharge.
Following the hashtag #ChennaiRainsHelp or #ChennaiMicro also allow those willing to help to identify tweeters or others who need their assistance.
The response was so overwhelming in a few cases that donors and volunteers were asked to help out at other places.
For instance, RJ Balaji, who works for Big FM, tweeted, “We are completely full . Volunteers and people bringing Food and materials pls give it at Guru Nanak College or distribute it nearby.” And yet, much work remains — those in stranded areas like Pallikaranai, West Mambalam or Ramapuram have still not heard from their loved ones and in an age where we are clued in on people’s minute-by-minute updates through social media, it begins to get difficult and panic brews if one is not reachable.
This is a natural cycle — no electricity plus no mobile signal, put together with land lines down equals no contact for a couple of days, with the by product being tonnes of panic bordering on hysteria.
Social media is helping out here too, with people tweeting their friends’ or relatives’ addresses and asking around the borderless digital space for updates.