Twitter, Facebook help Philippines flood survivors flee

Residents are using social networking sites to post escape routes and meeting spots after tropical storm Ketsana dumped a month’s worth of rain in six hours. Hollywood stars like Demi Moore have urged Twitter followers to donate.

The estimated number of people displaced in the Philippines by a devastating storm on Saturday has doubled, to more than 435,000, according to government officials. Officials are calling tropical storm Ketsana, which dumped a month’s worth of rain in six hours, the worst in 40 years.

As of Monday, 86 people were reported killed in floods that left some parts of the capital, Manila, under nearly 20 feet of water. The toll could rise as provincial authorities continue rescue efforts, and as new storms brew to the country’s east.

A massive rescue operation is underway, with the government relocating more than 100,000 people to 200 evacuation centers, and authorities working to distribute food, water, and medical supplies. But their efforts have been severely hampered by blocked roads and downed power and phone lines.

Meanwhile, Internet users from the Philippines to Hollywood are supplementing government efforts by posting everything from emergency phone numbers to appeals for donations online.

One eyewitness, in an opinion piece for the Philippines’ Inquirer newspaper, writes that people could not believe how quickly the floods began.

The Associated Press posted these images.

The government, assisted by the army, immediately issued a rescue operation and emergency directives. But the flood caught them largely unaware, with some citizens wondering why more preparation we not made.

China has pledged $100,000 for rescue victims, and the United States Embassy in Manila offered $50,000. In the US, celebrities like Demi Moore and Alyssa Milano used the social networking site Twitter to send out appeals for cash, reports the Philippines’ ABS-CBN television website.

Even as cities have come to a standstill, many reports indicate that Internet services are still working, allowing citizen’s groups, using social networking sites on the Internet, to join in the rescue efforts, reports the Inquirer.

The Philippines may not yet be out of danger, reports Bloomberg news:

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.