Wednesday, 11 April 2012

How social networking and microblogging sites help in Tsunami

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 11: When a major tsunami last hit the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 
newspapers and TV channels were taking pains to explain what tsunami is.

Seven years later, tsunami is a popular term and Wednesday's earthquake off the west 
coast of northern Sumatra triggered a wave of trends on social networking and 
microblogging sites. Facebook witnessed thousands of postings alerting friends and near 
and dear ones while on twitter seven of the top 10 trends were related to tsunami.

Even national governments utilized Twitter and Facebook to issue alerts about tsunami. 
The Union Ministry of External Affairs kept on posting updates about the event and 
alerted Indians living in tsunami prone countries particularly Indonesia, Thailand, 
Malaysia and Singapore. External Affairs Ministry official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin 
tweeted that control rooms are being set in Indian Mission in Jakarta and Consulate in 
Medan to assist Indian nationals if required.

Thanks to mobile phone smses, social networking and microblogging sites, people started 
taking precautionary measures even before the governments officially issued early tsunami 
warning alerts to citizens. Thousands of smses were exchanged within the first 10 minutes 
of the 8.5 magnitude earthquake that shook among others several parts in south India 
including Chennai, Puducherry, Nellore, Ongole, Vijayawada, Kakinada and Visakhapatnam.

On Twitter, “earthquake”, “tsunami”, “Indian Ocean”, “Sumatra”, “Aceh”, “Richter” and 
“Magnitude 8.9” trended right from the afternoon.  The trends not only alerted people 
about a possible tsunamigenic event, but also about the safety measures one should take. 
Ironically, most of the local TV channels created more panic than reassuring and 
educating people.

Israeli model Bar Refaeli tweeted, “My god. Hearing about the earthquake in Indonesia. My 
thoughts are there. Tsunami warnings. Crossing fingers that nothing will happen”.

The BBC reassured people that there was “less likely" of a tsunami because earthquake off 
Indonesia moved horizontally and not vertically.

When a seismic waves travel horizontally, they travel within the earth and this explains 
why tremors were felt as far away as Andhra Pradesh. But when the waves travel 
vertically, i.e. towards the sea surface the water in the ocean moves up triggering a 
massive movement of tsunami waves.

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