#ChennaiRainsHelp: Torrential downpour floods Indian city, Twitter users crowdsource help

  • Since mid-November, torrential rains have flooded large parts of southeastern India.
  • Twitter users have been crowdsourcing and streamlining aid and rescue efforts in the city and surrounding areas.
  • Help includes crowd-sourced database of people offering and seeking help, and a crowd-sourced map that marks the city's flooded roads.

Heavy rains, resulting from tropical low pressure areas created over the Bay of Bengal, have flooded large parts of southeastern India since mid-November. The city of Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu for instance, received over 119.73 cm of rain in the month of November.

This is one of the highest recorded rainfalls in Chennai in the past 100 years, according to Indian media reports. And the densely-populated city, with a population of nearly five million people, is struggling to cope.

Death toll due to rain-related incidents in Chennai has reportedly reached over 190, and water has flooded homes of people and submerged their property. Power has been cut-off in many parts of the city as a precautionary measure, several roads have caved in, and road and rail traffic has been hit hard. Chennai airport runways are flooded and the airport authorities have shut operations till December 3, 6 AM, according to media reports.

An analysis of rainfall data from Nov. 9 to 16, 2015 showed up to 550 mm (21.7 inches) of rain drenched India's southeastern coast in the state of Tamil Nadu. Over 200 mm (7.9 inches) fell in large areas of southeastern India and northern Sri Lanka. Credits: NASA/JAXA/Hal Pierce
An analysis of rainfall data from Nov. 9 to 16, 2015 showed up to 550 mm (21.7 inches) of rain drenched India’s southeastern coast in the state of Tamil Nadu. Over 200 mm (7.9 inches) fell in large areas of southeastern India and northern Sri Lanka. Credits: NASA/JAXA/Hal Pierce

In the midst of chaos and panic, social media is abuzz with help. Twitter users have been crowdsourcing and streamlining aid and rescue efforts in the city and surrounding areas.

Hashtags #ChennaiRainsHelp and #ChennaiRescue have proliferated on Twitter.

To streamline rescue efforts, several Twitter users have come together to create chennairains.org, a crowd-sourced list of people who have offered, or have asked for help on Twitter.

Chennairains.org has searchable lists of people and places offering their homes and food to those stranded in flooded waters. It also has an updated list of emergency contact numbers, including those of doctors. Moreover, people who need rescuing can fill up a “rescue form” on the website, and people can even offer to volunteer via another form.

Twitter user Sowmya Rao (@sowmyarao_), a lawyer from Delhi, created the database for chennairains.org on Tuesday. The database was quickly shared widely, and is now being managed and updated by around 16 other Twitter users.

Some celebrities have stepped in too. For example, Indian movie actor Siddharth offered to pick and deliver food packets to those in need in Chennai.

In another crowd sourced effort called FloodMaps, people have been mapping flooded roads in Chennai to gauge the city’s waterlogging situation.

To rescue people from inundated areas in the city, Ola, an app-based taxi service in India (like Uber), deployed some boats in November. Manned by professional rowers and fishermen, these boats also distributed food and water to stranded people.

Taking a cue from Ola, other taxi operators in Chennai have launched additional boats in the city to aid rescue efforts.

Others on Twitter have offered to rescue snakes, and other animals and wildlife from flooded waters.

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