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How social media is saving lives in the wake of Harvey's cataclysmic flooding


As Harvey inundated southeast Texas in the last week, 911 call centers were flooded with calls from those in need. When people couldn't get through, or help was taking too long, they turned to the internet.

People began posting their details - names, ages, addresses, phone numbers and how much water had flowed into their homes. What started as just sharing within social media community turned into multiple Instagram pages, Facebook groups and websites, all created by volunteers to help connect people with others who were ready and willing to help.

Harvey -- person awaits rescue (AP)

A woman looks out of the window of the Golden Years senior home as rescuers wait for a high water vehicle to rescue several elderly people who are inside on the second floor, during flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Multiple websites have maps dotted with people in need of rescue. People can mark themselves as rescued once they get help.

"Thanks to you, 7082 people have been marked safe!" the top of the map reads at houstonharveyrescue.com.

Another public map has also been set up on Tableau.com, listing how many situations are emergent, urgent and semi-urgent. It also says over 3,700 have bee rescued.

Facebook groups are published to connect people, like the Hurricane Harvey 2017 - Together We Will Make It page. There are Instagram accounts, like Hurricane Harvey Rescue page, for the same reason. Both are volunteer-run, listing helpful phone numbers and information for those in need.

Harvey rescue page Insta 8.31.17

Accounts like the Hurricane Harvey Rescue Page have been set up across multiple social media platforms, such as Instagram. (Screen shot/Instagram/@hurricaneharveyrescue)


The walkie-talkie app Zello has widely been used as a form of communication for volunteers, with multiple channels available for rescue operations. Some are listed by location like Port Arthur, others are as simple as "Texas search and rescue."

The flooding has prompted others to begin fundraising campaigns for those affected by Harvey's wrath. Someone started a GoFundMe page after three-year-old Jordyn Grace was pulled from the floodwaters, clinging to her mother. Collette Sulcer drowned in the flood trying to save her daughter.

"I don't know this young girl or her family, but I feel the necessity [sic] to help them out during these very difficult times," Michael Skolnik, who owns the page, said in a post. "I cannot sleep until we do something for this little girl."

The fact that people are turning to social media for help isn't a surprise when emergency crews and call centers were spread thin during Harvey's wrath. The Associated Press said Houston's call center received around 75,000 between Sunday and Monday alone.

While many have been rescued from social media, officials warn people they should call 911 or the Coast Guard instead of relying on social media and citizen rescuers to save them.


As many still wait to be rescued and taken to shelter, the torrential rain has mostly subsided. Harvey's remnants are heading northeastward, and Texas can begin to recover from what's being called the "worst natural disaster in American history."

Texas will need years and billions of dollars to recover, but the large volume of volunteers and community support has many looking on the bright side.

"Wow! We have a job to do. Together we got this! #HoustonStrong #TexasStrong," the Houston Police tweeted.



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