Nepal earthquake: Virtual media drives 'real' rescue operations

New Delhi: Considering the popularity and reach of social networking sites in the modern world, the Indian government is pro-actively using Twitter and Facebook to reach out to those affected in quake-ravaged Nepal.

From giving information about the missing ones to offering aid, the government and netizens have gone all out to utilise the power of social media, also known as virtual media, to offer a helping hand to the ones in need.

Soon after the 7.9-magnitude temblor jolted Nepal and parts of India on Saturday, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) started the twitter handle "@MEAcontrolroom" to inform people about latest rescue efforts and sharing helpline numbers.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj promptly swung into action by responding to queries of families and friends of those missing or stranded in the Himalayan country.

And this prompt response by the government is garnering praise from the twitterati.

"Well done Sushma Swaraj for making MEA cool and proactive! Huge Respect for @adgpi, @IAFIndia, NDRF and doctors," tweeted Amit Kumar, an IT consultant.

Desperate Amritansh Dash contacted the government seeking help to find a 78-year-old man by posting his image and details on Twitter, and in less than 20 minutes his post was acknowledged by MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

"Thank you for the information. We are communicating this to our officials on the ground," said Swarup.

People are using hashtags like #Nepalearthquake, #ThankyouPM, #OpMaitri, #NepalQuake, #IndiawithNepal to show solidarity and offer help to the people in quake-ravaged country.

Raheel Khursheed, head - news, politics and government, Twitter India told IANS that they are using the platform to mobilise resources and get out relevant information to those in need of help and those who are able to help.

"While #Nepal, #NepalEarthqake and #NepalQuake have been used to report on the disaster the past few days, we are now promoting #NepalQuakeRelief as a way to focus the conversation on coordinating relief efforts and saving lives," he said.

Twitter users are stretching out help to those in need.

"What's the site for donating money for earthquake victims," a Twitter user asked.

Addressing a tweet to to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a blood donors group, BloodDonorsofIndore posted: "Sir/ma'am, me and my volunteers are ready to fulfill all the blood requirements for Nepal."

Apart from this, the government is also keeping the world updated through pictures about the aid it is sending to Nepal.

People also took to Facebook to share information helpful for those in crisis.

"Nurses in and around Bir hospital trauma centre. Please immediately report. Due to lack of assistance surgeries are on hold ! If you know anyone who is a nurse please pass this message," posted Max Dipesh Khatri from Bir Hospital, Kathmandu.

However, for Khursheed, the next priority is to working with local agencies.

"... such as @InCrisisRelief, to help manage relief efforts (including volunteers, food, drinking water, shelter, medicines, clothes) and donations to reach the affected people of Nepal and India," he told IANS.

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