With Kerala battling unprecedented floods that have crippled many parts of the state, the state government and residents have taken to social media to help coordinate rescue efforts and offer support to those who need it. At least 114 people have died since August 9, and with rains showing no signs of abating, many of those who are outside the state are hoping social media can connect them to relatives or friends who are facing the deluge.
Heavy rains over the past week have caused floods across Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, affecting thousands of people and prompting the Indian Meteorological Department to issue a red alert. More than 2,400 villages in Kerala have been badly hit by rain, forcing an estimated 2 lakh people to move to relief camps. The National Disaster Response Force has rescued more than 926 people in Pathanamthitta, Kozhikode, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Alappuzha districts, but many more are still stranded and waiting for assistance.
As part of its coordinating efforts, the Kerala government has taken to Twitter to share information about making donations to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund.
Those in need of help can also log on to Kerala Rescue, another portal built by the state government, the state IT mission and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Citizens can request for help and obtain contact information of police control rooms in various districts. Those who wish to register as volunteers can do so on the website while those who wish to donate to the relief efforts can view a district-wise list of needs which include clothing, food and other necessary items.
A map of rescue requests on the websites suggests people have been asking for help from all over the state.
Even as the state is carrying out rescue operations, many citizens are also attempting to use social media to spread information and connect people to those who can help them. Users are posting messages with the hashtag #KeralaFloods to coordinate their operations.
Social media users are also using Twitter and Facebook to provide information about those were stranded in different parts of Kerala who need access to relief.
Aside from attempting to coordinate rescue operations, citizens are also using social media to encourage others to donate supplies or money to help those affected by the floods. A student-led initiative from the Department of Social Work at St Joseph’s College in Bengaluru has been collecting supplies since August 16 that they intend distribute in Wayanad, one of the districts in Kerala affected by the floods.
“We are focusing on providing relief in Mananthavady with the Wayanad Social Service Society,” said Roopika Nair, a student coordinating the initiative. “Our main aim is to provide people with undergarments, sanitary napkins, diapers for children, medicines and warm clothes.”
Beyond those who need immediate help, many who have relatives in Kerala say their families are safe, but they have not been able to stay in regular touch because of poor connectivity and erratic electricity supply.
Sajin Saju, who works in Delhi but hails from Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district, said that while he has not faced any problems while contacting his family, things could get worse in the coming days due to persistent rainfall.
“My family has told me that the rivers have swelled in their area. Muvattupuzha town has been submerged and residents have been experiencing sporadic power supply,” he said. “In Rakkad, some 5 km away, one of my relatives has moved to the second floor of the house as water has entered his home.”
A Mumbai-based photographer who requested anonymity said that his parents in Thiruvananthapuram had to cut off the electricity supply in their home as a precautionary measure and could not charge their phones for that period. “The situation in Thiruvananthapuram is not as bad as other parts of the state. So far, I have not faced any problems while contacting my parents.”
Raihana Raffi, a student in Thevara said that she was facing difficulty in contacting her grandparents in Irinjalakuda and Chelakkara in Thrissur district due to bad connection. “My grandparents are safe but we have to try five to six times to connect to them. There is mostly no electricity in Chelakkara.”