As Victoria woke this morning, the bushfire news continued to get worse … Social media and the internet, perhaps for the first time in a large way in Australia, played a big role in how the latest news from the front was spread, comparable perhaps only to radio. Broadcast television here completely failed yesterday, with stations really only picking up the news last night once they realized how bad it was, and while some newspapers online have kept relatively up-to-date, there has usually be a delay between the news breaking, and it being posted.
ABC Radio has been at the forefront of the breaking news, and radio will probably retain the number one position in these kinds of emergency situations, as receiving it doesn’t require electricity or a phone line. But for those following from out-of-state and online, social media tools have really come into their own for up-to-date, user-generated and relayed news during the bushfires — much as it did during last year’s fires in Los Angeles.
The 774Melbourne Twitterstream has been the standout online source, with not only the most up-to-date figures and news, but also links to useful aid efforts and resources for both those affected and those looking to help. Users instantly relayed the breaking news via the #bushfires and #vicfires tags. The Australian reports that the bushfires averaged 51.5 mentions every 20 seconds on Twitter yesterday.
Hundreds of readers have flooded 774’s blog with offers of donations and help and requests for assistance.
Several news organisations and sites have created their own Google Maps mash-up to track the fires, but probably the best map is from Google Australia themselves, who used their superior brain power to create a map that updates in real time via the CFA’s RSS feed.
The fires made headlines around the world, with coverage from the Guardian, Telegraph, Washington Post, CNN, Globe & Mail and everywhere in between. In The Times, Germaine Greer has her inevitable say:
The cause of these disasters is not global warming; still less is it arson. It is the failure to recognise that fire is an intrinsic feature of eucalypt bushland. It cannot be prevented but it can and should be managed. Unless there is a fundamental change of policy across all levels of government in Australia, there will be more and worse fires and more deaths.
Some views from the frontlines:
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