Social Media is a Lifeline After Haiti Quake

by Pam Dyer

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Social Media is a Lifeline After Haiti Quake

As we’ve seen lately with other emergencies and disasters, the news about the devastating earthquake in Haiti materialized online. After the 7.0 quake struck yesterday, with most power and services knocked out, Haitians turned to Twitter, Facebook, and other Web sites to show the world what had happened.

The first images to emerge minutes after Wednesday’s calamity were blurry and dimly lit, but the story they told was unmistakable. One showed a man, almost out of frame, screaming. In another, a woman covered in dust reached frantically toward the camera. The Internet proved to be a lifeline for news out of the hard-hit country, with tweets from Haiti delivering a myriad of photos, videos, and eyewitness descriptions — all well ahead of most cable news and other services.

Here’s a good overview from the Sydney Morning Herald of how Web coverage played a vital role in the aftermath. An excerpt:

As phone lines went down and darkness fell over Haiti, the full impact of today’s massive earthquake was difficult to know.

But as with many recent natural disasters and emergencies, the extent of the chaos in the impoverished Caribbean island emerged quickly online.

Graphic pictures of Haitians covered in rubble, bleeding and in shock, purportedly taken soon after the quake, bounced around Twitter even ahead of anything similar coming via news wire services.

And from a report on Mashable:

An outpouring of well wishes and support for the Haitian people has swept the web in the wake of a devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti. And just like during the Eureka earthquake, tweets have quickly spread moving and gut-wrenching TwitPics of the disaster.

Photos taken by journalist @CarelPedre on his mobile phone are providing a glimpse into the devastation that has slammed the Caribbean nation. Another Twitter user, @MarvinAdy, shared those pictures through TwitPic, resulting in tens of thousands of views and countless retweets.

There are also thousands of Facebook and Twitter updates on the disaster appearing every minute. The web has been moved by the plight of the Haitian people. Social media has quickly become the first place where millions react to large-scale catastrophes.

Here’s another site that sprang up to provide ongoing feeds and up-to-the-minute video of the disaster.

Countless updates were also available on Facebook. A group called Earthquake Haiti already has almost 37,000 members and is being used to exchange valuable information about earthquake damage, requests for assistance, and to show support and solidarity for the Haitian people.

More than 100,000 people are now feared dead. It’s unimaginable, really.


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