With Chennai coming to a standstill due to rains, social media has become a rallying point for the citizens of Chennai, with most of them offering food, shelter and accommodation for the ones stuck in different parts of the city.
One particular effort to crowd source places to stay in the form of a google spreadsheet is being extensively shared, where people can fill details of the places where they can help along with a contact number.
As rains lashed Chennai on Tuesday evening, Sowmya Rao, a lawyer who currently resides in Delhi was speaking to her aunt in Chennai's Perungulathur which witnessed severe flooding.
"I was feeling frustrated as all my cousins are NRIs and I don't live in Chennai, only old people and family live in Chennai. The Twitter id @atlasdanced said that we should put out a spreadsheet of people who are willing to help. I told him that I was happy to help. So, I started with the Google spreadsheet," says Sowmya.
The initial spreadsheet had details of a few people offering shelter just for that night. However, lots of people started sharing it and many people got in touch to help. The details kept adding up all night.
"At around 10 pm it moved from just being a shelter-offering, recharge-offering, mechanics-offering thing to see if we can coordinate rescue as well. We realized having Google forms for that made sense. But only 50 people could use it at the same time. So we spent lot of our time copy pasting information from Twitter to the sheets," Sowmya adds.
What followed was massive coordination as the team reached out to every media house and journalists and formed groups on every online medium, asking people to share the link and add more information from ground zero.
Soon, even Twitter India took up the link, sharing it extensively for people in need.
The team worked till around 2 am on Wednesday on the forms to try and put as much information in one place as possible.
At around 2 45 am, Karthik Balakrishnan, a developer who works at Hasgeek, contacted the team and offered to build an interface which would pull the information from the forms and put it into a website.
"We had a friend from the US and one from Canada who were involved as well. So they took over and worked on it through the night and put up the site. Now it's up and running and we are asking all authorities to look at the sheet. We have also got some volunteers now who are tracking the tweets and talking to 108. We are trying to pass on the information to them, so we can help them with tracking stranded people," Sowmya adds.
Some of the people behind the team include Shrinivas S G, a Chennai-ite living in Gurgaon, Srinath Sripath, who works as a Digital Marketing Manager with the Tata Group in Bombay, Vishnu Prasad, a product consultant for Freshdesk, working in Chennai.
Beside a list of shelters and useful contact details, the website even has a 'Rescue Form,' which asks for your contact details, number of people, type of emergency and other details, which is then forwarded to the authorities.
It also has a volunteer form where anyone in Chennai can add their names to the list and help out with various tasks like cooking, driving for pickups, providing shelter etc.
So when a person seeks help, the team checks its list of volunteers to see who is closest and who can help.
Over 250 people have offered their homes so far, promising to accommodate anywhere between two to 50 families in just a couple of hours. Entire hotel lobbys have also been offered. Many of the offers also include taking in pets along with their owners.
"From yesterday we have had around 15 volunteers from all over, and more helping us track tweets. We have got over 50 requests for help. All through the day we will be seeing more. We have also have a volunteer sheet of people on the ground. So when people seek help we look at the sheet and see who can help," Sowmya adds.