Following the Haitian earthquake online

01/13/2010 (1:10 pm)

Following the Haitian earthquake online

Filed under: Developing world, Global Voices ::

A massive earthquake hit Haiti last night, with an epicentre only 15 kilometers from Port au Prince, the capital city. It will be some time before the extent of the devestation is known, but early reports suggest that thousands are likely to be reported dead. Major landmarks, including the Presidential Palace, National Assembly and Port au Prince cathedral have been destroyed. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, and the damage from the earthquake will compound the massive challenges the country already faces.

Reporters are racing to Haiti to report on the disaster, but voices are already making themselves heard from the decimated city. Georgia Popplewell, Global Voices’s managing director and pioneering Caribbean blogger, has been rounding up tweets coming from Haiti on our site. Some of the tweets include photos that show the intensity of the destruction.

Photo sent to twitter user marvinady by Carel Pedre of Haiti’s Radio One.

Georgia has started a list on Twitter, aggregating accounts of people who are posting from Haiti. Pooja Bhatia is apparently posting from Port au Prince and reported last night, “quake happened as sun was setting but in plenty of time to see that all the slum houses built into the hillsides disappeared”. Her posts today have documented the devestation of various landmarks and people’s increasing concern about obtaining food and water. Other Twitter users are enroute to PAP and writing about their progress and setbacks in reaching the city.

Troy Livesay, a missionary in Haiti, is writing long, informative blog posts as well as tweets. This morning’s post reveals the extent of uncertainty the island is feeling:

There are buildings that suffered almost no damage. Right next door will be a pile of rubble.

Thousands of people are currently trapped. To guess at a number would be like guessing at raindrops in the ocean. Precious lives hang in the balance. When pulled from the rubble there is no place to take them for care Haiti has an almost non existent medical care system for her people.

I cannot imagine what the next few weeks and months will be like. I am afraid for everyone. Never in my life have I seen people stronger than Haitian people. But I am afraid for them. For us.

Response to the tragedy has been rapid online. My twitter-scanning scripts estimate that 1.5-1.8% of tweets on Twitter this morning have mentioned Haiti – that’s much higher than mentions of “china” or “google”, refering to the major story breaking in technology news, Google’s decision to stop censoring search results in China. Much of the Twitter conversation centers on ways to help the Haitian people – in the US, texting “haiti” to 90999 donates $10 to the Red Cross to support Haitian relief efforts. Chris Sacca offers five more ways you can help, donating to other worthy organizations and learning more about relief efforts as well as about Haiti’s history and resilience. Jen Brea is tracking reactions from the Haitian diaspora and efforts to help, including the project organized by Haitian-American rap artist Wyclef Jean.

We’ll be tracking the crisis and response in Haiti closely on Global Voices and expect to have a special coverage page up within an hour. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Haiti and Haitians in the diaspora around the world.

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