’A huge earthquake rocked the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. Thousands are feared dead.’ Those are the sad news we are currently hearing across the media and increasingly through out the internet. The blogging and especially the micro blogging community is playing an increasing role in spreading and informing about events. Only last year several events grew very big in these media, such as the swine flu case and the Iranian demonstrations against the results of the presidents election.
The earth quake has, as it looks at the moment almost completely wiped out the infrastructure of a anyway struggling country and this dramatically complicates possibilities to brig in help. So currently most of the news are coming from outside and satellite observation and analysis.
There are first satellite images now also appearing on Google Earth. The Satellite GeoEye passed over Haiti yesterday morning (14th) and the imagery has been passed on to Google.
You can download the KML file HERE to see the imagery in Google Earth on your desktop. Details on the Google Latitude blog.
Also on facebook large groups form to inform, support and find people. One group with 170’000 members is the Earthquake Haiti. They also give advise if you want to provide support or donate. It is advised to make sure any donations go to a properly registered organisation. Fears over false companies and fraud are also sweeping the internet simultaneously. Some options her, the British Red Cross Haiti Appeal, Oxfam Haiti Appeal, advice from the White House in Washington.
Some first map mashups also emerge. There is twitter (on trendsmap) or also youtube mashups. The best content focused mashup is produced by ushahidi which seems to be as factual a possible even though it is partly crowed sourced. It serves at the same time as communication board as users can post requests to find missing family members or friends. This is helpful until official information have caught up. Since then all the information has to be consumed with care and a portion of skepticism.
Image taken from GoogleMapsMania / screenshot of the haiti.ushahidi information mashup
Help and support is under way from all over the world. MapAction for example, they featured on the blog in an earlier post on mapping, have deployed a four man team early on Wednesday. Also the united state have deployed a aircraft carrier carrying helicopters that and support material. It arrived early this morning and will be used as a hub according to the NYtimes. Other countries also have sent rescue teams and supply. However there is some reluctance to help simply because of the extend of the disaster tat creates together with the already difficult condition before hand a definitely unpredictable situation. No one knows where to start quite literally, the country has to be built up from scratch seems to be the common tone of the reports. In terms of media coverage, I was struck by the extensive use of dead bodies to illustrate the disaster and its extend. Maybe it is only a feeling but I haven’t recognised this type of media coverage since the Yugoslavia conflict, where too dead bodies and extreme violence was widely used in media coverage. I do understand that the disaster, pain and horror have to be communicated, but maybe there is still a boundary. An image like some of those are for me not doing the right job.