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Victorian Bushfires: Online Organizing for Relief

By Tom Watson on February 9, 2009No Comment

The photos and video are simply horrible to contemplate: vast firestorms sweeping entire towns from the Australian map, the flames trapping fleeing victims in their cares as they race from a scene of death and destruction. More than 160 are dead with the death toll likely to rise, and many thousands are homeless, many without food and water.

Online, the Victorian fires have quickly become a “flash cause,” spurring action from bloggers and Twitter mavens in Australia and around the world. On Facebook, several group have already attracted thousands of members, combining news updates with fundraising and expressions of concern and horror. Most of the online fundraising I’ve seen so far points donors to the Victoria unit of the Australian Red Cross, which is clearly in need of money and supplies to aid victims and the homeless.

Meanwhile, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is running a long blog post with literally hundreds of offers from Austrailians to open their homes to to those who have lost theirs in the bushfires. Following the #bushfires tag on Twitter brings in news updates – including the suspicion that the fires were deliberately set – as well as offers of aid and assistance. And then there are Tweets like this one:

Just found out someone I have know for many years died with her husband in the #bushfires at Steeles Creek. Numb.

The fires are being called Australia’s worst natural disaster. Over at GlobalVoices, blogger Kevin Rennie has an ongoing post with some very moving stories.

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