RealTime IT News

Spreading The Word of Tsunami Relief

Relief groups such as the American Red Cross were providing online information Monday about how to donate aid, as the world community responded to coastal nations in southeast Asia that were devastated by a massive underwater earthquake and tsunami Sunday.

Bloggers also picked up the links and ran with them, quickly spreading information about the magnitude of the situation, which hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, coastal regions of India and Thailand and beyond.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered 9.0 on the Richter scale when it hit Sunday. It triggered a massive tsunami, including walls of waves some 33-feet high, that overwhelmed many coastal communities throughout Southeast Asia. By Monday, the International Red Cross had estimated some 23,000 lives were lost, and issued alerts about the spread of disease from the deaths.

News reports said more than half the deaths so far were in Sri Lanka, but major outages and damages also hit India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, as well as Malaysia, Bangladesh, and as far away as Somalia.

A group of Indian bloggers launched a community blog called The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami, where they were sharing information about how to lend a hand.

The site included an appeal from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who asked for donations through the office's National Relief Fund. In a statement posted on the blog, he said thousands of people have lost their lives and property worth scores of rupees has been damaged. He appealed to all citizens to donate generously.

Relief organization Oxfam posted information on its Web site on how to donate, especially for Sri Lankans. Oxfam said Sri Lanka is one of the worst affected countries by the floods. According to initial estimates, 5,000 people may have been killed, 200,000 directly affected and perhaps one million made homeless.

"This is a massive humanitarian disaster, and communications are so bad we still don't know the full scale of it. Unless we get aid quickly to the people, many more could die," said Phil Esmonde, head of Oxfam in Sri Lanka, in a statement.

Other bloggers who normally don't write about general news suspended their focus to include posts from people who witnessed the devastation, such as this post from a blog called Worldchanging.com, which carried an account of the earthquake's effects in India in the Indian Express.

Software company FogCreek said it would donate half its revenues this week to disaster relief.

Other bloggers just urged their colleagues to spread the word. "Stop surfing and do something -- now," wrote blogger Greg Hughes, who linked out to more information on Command Post.

Another tech blogger, Nick Bradbury, wrote that he would donate what he earns from TopStyle and FeedDemon to the International Red Cross relief efforts.

According to the United States Geological Survey, a tsunami is a sea wave of local or distant origin that results from large-scale seafloor displacements associated with large earthquakes, major submarine slides or exploding volcanic islands.

The earthquake struck off the west coast of Northern Sumatra on Sunday, Dec. 26, the USGS's site said. It was located about 160 miles southeast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The impacted nations include Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Somalia and Bangladesh. The survey site also said tsunamis occurred on the coasts of Maldives and Cocos Island and were felt widely in Sumatra.

The quake and its after-effects now rank as the fourth largest in the world since 1900.

Scientists told the Associated Press and Reuters that the catastrophic death toll could have been avoided by use of an early warning system that could have warned coastal residents to evacuate the area.

Jim Wagner contributed reporting to this article.