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Calls for help flood cyberspace as ‘Ondoy’ pummeled Luzon


It’s the old Filipino practice of bayanihan, expressed in the age of Web 2.0. As strong winds, torrential rains and extensive flooding due to tropical storm “Ondoy" buffeted Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, Filipinos turned to various Internet sites not only for the latest news updates, but also to share information and to call for help. The online world of social media became a convenient means to keep connected as land lines went busy, cell phone networks conked out, and government websites bogged down. In the microblogging site Twitter, for example, “Ondoy" and “NDCC" (the government’s National Disaster Coordinating Council) became top-trending topics on Saturday, mostly due to Filipinos twitting contact numbers of disaster relief agencies that they could contact for help. At another microblogging site, Plurk, Filipino users not only “plurked" emergency numbers but also suggested ways to channel donations to the disaster victims. “Let us reach out to the victims of typhoon Ondoy. In this time of need, every charitable act will matter," said a Filipina who goes by her username pearlychelle. The social networking site Facebook was also flooded with calls for help and wall posts on information about relief centers and hotline numbers. GMANews.TV’s Bagyong “Ondoy" Facebook page became an interactive bulletin board where Filipinos can post contact numbers, addresses, calls for help, inquiries and various messages of people stranded in flooded neighborhoods and buildings, vehicles trapped in gridlock, and travelers stuck in ports and terminals. Bloggers and other citizen journalists did the same, often staying up overnight to update news tidbits, advisories, interactive spreadsheets and maps to help rescue teams, government agencies, non-government organizations, and concerned individuals take action. A tech-savvy Filipino who goes by username KaninLamig (Cold Rice) created an interactive Google map that pinpointed dozens of locations that reported urgent calls for rescue, evacuation, food relief, and other emergencies related to “Ondoy." A number of volunteers soon offered to help update the map. Blogger Manuel L. Quezon III, for his part, kept his site well updated, and provided links to other helpful sites, including KaninLamig’s Google map. “Fellow bloggers may want to help on collating specific types of information they encounter online: appeals for rescue, traffic/flood updates, places to send relief goods, power failures, etc. This allows relief workers and media to focus on who needs help," Quezon said in a blogpost on tropical storm “Ondoy." A site entirely dedicated on “Ondoy" was built in the blogging platform Tumblr. Photos of various heavily flooded areas were posted on the site. Videos of flooded areas were also uploaded on YouTube. Through clicks, posts, tweets and blogs, Filipinos found alternative means to extend simple acts of help to those in need of them. The “Ondoy" experience showed that the Filipino sense of community really can overcome any storm – with a little help from technology. - GMANews.TV If you have pictures, please send them to frieze26sit@m.facebook.com so we can post them on the site.
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