Chileans resort to the web to deal with the emergency

Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps have become very useful tools to organize solidary initiatives.

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The majority of services were cut off after the powerful earthquake that shook the country early Saturday morning. For many people the Internet became the only way of communicating, especially through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which they could access via their cellular phones. Thus, the web quickly became one of the most important ways to locate relatives, organize aid and to disseminate important information.

In fact, only a few hours after the earthquake the word “Chile” had become one of the most popular “trending topics in the microblogging website Twitter, as a large number of users were commenting the catastrophe. In addition, messages like “we are all safe,” posted in Facebook or sent by email, helped to allay the concerns of many people worried about the situation affecting their loved ones.

One of the first uses that Chileans gave the Internet to deal with the crisis was to locate missing people. Thus the page “Ayudemos a Chile” was created, helping to find over 730 people. Google also made a website available to find people. The Chilean Twitter community has also mobilized to locate each other on a list.

To allow more people to benefit from these initiatives, users have been called on to open their Wi Fi networks to others and to disable their passwords.

Other examples are the websites of the civic participation project Atina Chile, such as El Observatodo and El Repuertero, where the users themselves publish information and photographs on the diverse areas affected. But not only Chileans have helped: Evelyn, a Mexican who lives in Sweden, created a website that collects practical up-to-date information and photographs: terremotochile.com.

Diverse support groups have been created in Facebook to collect food and basic supplies and some have even organized groups of action to help in diverse tasks, such as rebuilding homes and providing medical treatment in the affected areas.

Google Maps is another one of the tools that cybernauts have used to provide valuable information with interactive maps, such as the shops and service stations open throughout the country and detours on highways.