How Mumbaikars used Twitter and Google to coordinate help during the terrorist attack

The citizens of Mumbai come together and use the Internet to help coordinate support for victims of the 07/13 Mumbai terror attack. Crowd sourced map, helpline spreadsheet, blood requests and traffic details guide people through another tragedy.

A few hours ago, the city of Mumbai was in a frenzy. Three bomb explosions at different locations caused panic in the city reminding us of the dreadful incidents the country has seen consistently.

It is hard not to get into the politics around the incident while writing this but the social and web once again showed how people can come together to help each other while the authorities keep making statements. At approximately 7 PM, Wednesday, July 13 reports of two bomb blasts started spreading on Twitter. The News channels were quick to get their cameras on location. How many bombs have been planted, are modes of public transport targets, what is the intensity of the attack were questions that raised fear.

A Twitter friend from another city is in Mumbai and was near one of the targeted locations, she asked on Twitter what should she do. (She safely reached a relative's place with the help of a cop.) Frantic phone calls to friends and family were being made. Others suggested to use SMS or BBM to avoid crippling the mobile network. The cops sent out messages using SMS asking people to remain calm and indoors. By now we've become good at post-explosion steps. Technology enthusiasts decided to do their bit. Nitin Sagar (@nitinsgr) Product Manager at Map My India (GPS and mapping company in India) created a public Google Spreadsheet to collate helpline numbers. Twitter users added their details to help the affected. As he states, he started the spreadsheet with 5 phone numbers, through Twitter and Facebook there were more than 200 contact numbers within a few hours.

On Twitter, citizens near the blast areas started giving their contact numbers for those who're stranded and looking for shelter. People of India tagged their shock, support, rage, blood requests as #MumbaiBlasts on Twitter. Police help line numbers were tweeted and retweeted by News agencies and citizens. A freelance journalist from the UK closely followed the developments with an advanced Twitter search filtering results within 20 Miles of Mumbai (the results will be the latest updates not what was during the attack) and was fascinated at how citizens were teaming up with the power of Twitter to help each other. It was indeed fascinating. Meanwhile, Ajay Kumar setup a map to visualize and monitor developments using Ushahidi (an open-source interactive mapping tool). The crowd pitched in from across the world according Kumar. Moderators and volunteers from US, Canada, Germany and other nations helped update the map. A screenshot of the map:

Twitter India with 173,000+ followers shared steps on how to follow what's happening. BloodAid India kept updating us with blood requirements at hospitals, a request for B- blood at a hospital was retweeted by more than a 100 people.

As time passed, focus from hospitals shifted to guiding people through traffic. Users on Twitter kept updating traffic density across the city.

The power of social, the inability of the governments. Interviews tomorrow will celebrate the spirit of Mumbai. We should be proud, the city did good.