In Mumbai, bloggers and Twitter offer help to relatives

In Mumbai terrorist attack, bloggers and Twitter users are helping relay information to worried relatives

Bloggers pitched in offering information and other help to people worldwide as Indian police and commandos battled it out Thursday with armed terrorists in two top hotels and a residential complex in south Mumbai.

On "Mumbai Help", bloggers offered to help users get through to their family and friends in the city, or to get information on them.

Mobile and fixed line circuits to Mumbai were clogged by the large number of people trying to get in touch with people in Mumbai after the crisis. A significant number of the people trapped in the hotels are foreigners, according to media reports.

More people are likely to use mobile phones and technologies like SMS (Short Message Service) to get in touch with relatives than go online, because the number of mobile users outstrips that of online users in Mumbai. But when the phone lines are clogged, some people are realizing that going online may be a good alternative.

People posting on the Mumbai Help blog included a sister trying to get in touch with her brother on a mobile number. A volunteer tried the number, and promptly reported on the blog that the number was busy but she would continue to try.

"We do what we can," said Dina Mehta, an ethnographer by profession, who is blogging on Mumbai Help. "We are certainly providing people emotional support at this difficult time," she added.

Mumbai Help's teams were on Thursday checking out if hospitals have put out the list of the injured and dead, to pass on the information to bloggers and callers. "Till now the lists of dead or injured are not yet put up, which is surprising," Mehta said Thursday afternoon.

Micro-blogging site Twitter is also being used to pass on information, or to just express feelings about the terrorist attack, and sometimes about the inadequate coverage of the crises by some Indian TV channels.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the locations attacked by the terrorists, has used SMS to get its help line and other important numbers to anxious relatives who had people living or visiting the hotel at the time of the attack.

A trapped hotel guest used his mobile phone to send an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) video clip of police action to a local TV channel, IBN Live. The channel has been encouraging witnesses to send MMS as part of their citizen journalism program.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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