Crowdsourcing helps victims of Russian flash flood

By bne IntelliNews July 10, 2012

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Ordinary Russians are unofficially coordinating their efforts to aid the victims of a flash flood that swept through Russia's southern Krasnodar region over the weekend, killing 180 people and counting.

More than 34,000 people have been made homeless as more than 5,000 houses in four towns were hit by the overnight flash floods on July 6-7. In the face of official incompetence and sluggish response to the disaster, tens of thousands are in increasingly desperate need of food and medicine. Shocked by the scale of the tragedy, ordinary Russians around the country have rallied round and are sending food, water and other essentials by the truckload to the stricken region.

By July 8, at least 30 official aid collecting stations had been launched in Moscow and other cities. Some of the volunteers were ready to turn their private apartments into such makeshift aid depots. In Moscow, the main point where people have been bringing humanitarian aid is located near the Moscow State University building at Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills), in the centre of the capital.

Support has been coming from all across Russia and abroad as individual volunteers joined the thousands of emergency workers already deployed by the government arriving in the region with badly needed food, fresh water, and clothes to aid those in need.

The increasingly internet-savvy population has pressed modern IT technology into service to coordinate the unofficial relief efforts.

In addition to Twitter and other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Vkontakte and LiveJournal, volunteers have set up a website that lists places where aid is being gathered and distributed, or allows them to set up new collection and distribution points. It has been especially useful when it comes to organising transportation for aid, allowing donations to be delivered to collection points and shipped to the region by volunteers or simply offering rides to those that want to travel to the town to help.

"People, who are going from [Russia's northern] Murmansk region, give me a ride - I am medical assistant and I am ready to take medicines with me and will buy more with your help. Call me," wrote a volunteer in the Vkontakte group, who left his cell phone number posted on the wall, reports RT.

An estimated 2,500 volunteers had arrived in the region to help by Monday, July 9, according to reports.

The Krymsk map is not the first time this crowdsourcing technology has been used in Russia and sites like launched in Perm already coordinate the efforts of individuals who are promoting a cause. The site has been used to stop illegal logging of forests, complain about broken lifts in apartment blocks, and calls for replacement of broken streetlights. has already spread to other major cities and highlights about 8,000 issues, of which more than a third have been solved since they were first posted.

Indeed, these sites are already being used by the authorities to monitor the effectiveness of their workers and contractors. The sites are also used for political purposes to put pressure on the authorities in the face of corruption and other administrative problems. is a similar site that deals with problems related to roads, infrastructure and public services, which already covers more than 220 towns and cities and is equivalent to the British, which has accumulated more than 1,600 reports a week.

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