On September 26, 2009, Filipinos were tuning in to their Facebook newsfeeds for actual, real-time news. The streets of Manila had been quickly submerged by a record-breaking month's worth of rainfall in a matter of six hours. A terrifying, city-wide flood was brought to unprecedented levels when high tide came in the afternoon and water from the city's two dams had to be released.
This day showed the true value of the internet and mobile technology in the hands of pro-active people. Groups were formed on Facebook to organize rescue teams for people who had boats, jet skis and trucks. An updated Google map was made to mark roads that were rendered impassable. A Google document listing addresses of people who were in critical danger was circulated. Bloggers aggregated critical relief information such as hotlines and evacuation center addresses. Twitter kept people who lost cell phone reception in the loop. Mobile money donations were text messaged to the Red Cross to provide fast financial aid. And late into the night, massive volunteer relief efforts were being planned out for the next day.
Typhoon Ondoy was a tragedy. Hundreds have died in the Philippines as a whole and many more livelihoods (430,000 people have been displaced) have been crushed by uninsurable property damage. But without the rapid-response heroism of ordinary Filipino citizens enabled to come together by technology, it could have been much worse. 8,688 people were rescued and 41,205 people were able to seek refuge in 92 evacuation centers that day.
International readers who wish to help out can click on this Red Cross link.
This originally appeared on PSFK and is written by Jason Tran.