Metro Manila & Luzon Provinces Flooded; How Can Social Media Help?

The Philippines’ capital and regions in the vicinity are currently experiencing what seems to be a redux of 2009’s flooding due to typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). But while that influx of water came from a tropical storm, this time it’s due to the onset of monsoon rains pulled in by typhoon Haikui, which is currently traversing north toward China.

Flooding at the University of Sto. Tomas (Photo credit: Kenneth Dimalibot/Instagram)

It helps that citizens have been better-prepared, with improved tools for weather prediction and flood detection. For instance, the government’s Project Noah¬†overlays data from various sources onto Google Maps to help plot weather disturbances. The system even includes data on current rainfall, which can help predict flooding in areas of concern.

Even with better prediction systems, though, what cannot be helped is the fact that strong torrential rainfall has been consistent throughout the past few hours, result in in rivers overflowing and dams requiring water release. This has left millions of citizens under floodwater, with some places reaching past rooftops. Families and communities in affected areas are now in makeshift evacuation areas, which include school gyms and community sports arenas.

The prevalence of camera-enabled smartphones and mobile Internet has given netizens a means of sharing their experiences and checking out what has been happening to the rest of the country. Rappler has a collection of crowdsourced photos of flooded areas from around Metro Manila.

In this day and age of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, netizens are able to gather news and information from social media. Given the popularity of mobile devices in accessing these sources of information, does this mean that the citizenry is increasingly in-the-know?

Perhaps the fact that schools and local government authorities were able to announce early on that classes — and even work in business establishments — will be suspended is testament to how knowledge can help mitigate risks and disasters. Even without a centralized authority to act as the source of knowledge crowdsourcing of news and updates has greatly helped authorities in making decisions regarding evacuation, rescue and relief operations.

Have we harnessed the power of social media enough in such times of crisis?