Distress calls, relief mobilisation mark SM story

People being rescued from a flood-affected region following heavy monsoon rainfall, in Kochi on Thursday. PTI

As Kerala reels under one of the deadliest disasters in its history, social media is doubling as a support system for the official machinery and the thousands affected across the state. And it’s not just about the hashtag campaigns.

Distress calls from people marooned in flooded houses, spot videos of people calling out for help, men and women living abroad posting Google-mapped locations of aged parents and requesting evacuation, collection of relief material – a good part of the rescue and rehabilitation effort is also being supplemented on social media platforms.

In Pathanamthitta district where many areas were flooded after river Pampa breached its banks, hundreds posted videos and messages on social media to highlight their plight, leading rescue teams to their locations. Contact numbers and locations of the affected were shared across WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter.

People offered shelter to the affected in their homes while members of voluntary groups and collectives stepped in with offers to help – from food to fibre boats for evacuation in flooded areas.

The state government, from the chief minister and ministers to district administrations and official departments, have used social media to ensure that information that goes out is authentic and panic-mongers are kept away. Help also emerged through keralarescue.in, a state government initiative to coordinate disaster relief and rescue operations.

There, however, was also the staple dose of fake news and trolls entering the social media spaces – the inputs ranging from non-existent power shutdowns to dam level alerts to uninformed criticism of the rescue and rehabilitation operations. Kerala Police said stringent action would be initiated against people who spread hoaxes. 

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