China floods: People unite on social media to help flood victims

·2 min read
Cars sit in floodwaters after heavy rains hit the city of Zhengzhou in China's central Henan province on July 21, 2021.
Zhengzhou city was devastated by floods after it saw a year's worth of rainfall in three days

Chinese people are using social media to help speed up rescue efforts after deadly floods engulfed Henan province.

At least 33 people have died there after a year's worth of rain fell in three days in Zhengzhou city.

Users of the Weibo social media platform connected people who were stuck or in danger with professional rescue teams and other helpers.

However some posts which mention people being trapped or asking for help have been removed from Weibo.

The Chinese government employs millions of people to monitor and censor internet activity. Past disasters such as the sinking of a ship on the Yangtze River in 2015 saw some social media posts removed in order to maintain stability and prevent anti-government sentiment.

With the floods in Zhengzhou, many people shared tales of horror and pleaded for help online. In response, thousands of people on social media directed their Weibo posts to emergency rescue teams so that they knew where to go.

When news emerged that some trains were being stranded after rail lines had become submerged, people put together lists of each train number and the resources its passengers needed.

Some put together text-only versions of critical contact lists, after discovering that people in some areas could not download images because heavy rains had affected internet speeds.

People also helped to organise streams of information so that it was up-to-date and clear.

According to local media reports, residents living near the Tielu Railway Station also delivered food and bottled water to passengers stuck in a train after a related hashtag was viewed more than 800 million times.

While some focused on giving emergency rescue advice, others shared information on mental health support and personal hygiene tips.

A hashtag related to menstruation amid the floods had more than 200 million views, as doctors and social workers reminded women to change their sanitary pads frequently to avoid the risk of infection. Others posted addresses to locations where women could collect free sanitary products.

But there have also been cases where posts about the floods have been censored. These are mainly from individuals requesting help, rather than people criticising the government.

Free Weibo, a site that determines whether posts have been censored, said these posts included reports of people trapped at a school, elderly people in need of oxygen and thousands of people trapped on a campus.

One post asked whether authorities should be held accountable.

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