Social Media Shines in Disaster

Twitter, Flickr, Facebook outdo mainstream media

By Jessica Greene
|  Tuesday, Sep 29, 2009  |  Updated 12:51 PM EDT
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Disaster Strikes: Deadly Tsunami's Fifth Anniversary

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The homes of nearly 1.9 million people in Manila and surrounding areas were inundated in the weekend flooding. Nearly 380,000 people have sought shelter in schools, churches and other evacuation centers.

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Typhoon Ketsana dumped a month's worth of rain on the Philippines in just 12 hours this weekend. Since then, the death toll has been rising. At least 240 people have been killed and thousands have been left homeless as a result of the storm, known on the Pacific Island as Ondoy.

Many Filipinos living in the Bay Area say they still don't know whether their relatives and friends are among the dead or displaced. They say they haven't been able to get through traditional phone lines and cell service is spotty -- but Internet is still working.

So, they're turning to social media sites, where citizen journailists are uploading pictures, videos and updates 24/7 to sites like  Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

Tweets and status updates range from calls for medication and other donations to information about routes to avoid flooded zones and accounts of heroic rescues.

Within hours of starting a Facebook page regarding the disaster, the Filipino foundation ABS CBN reported donations amounting to thsousands of dollars.

It's the latest example of how the new era of digital news is turning everyday people into international journalists.

Bay Area Filipino families looking for information and support will gather at the Daly City United Methodist Church Tuesday at 8 p.m. to see how they can help.

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