Use of Social Media during Chennai Floods

Synopsis:  Use of  Social Media during floods in Chennai

                                                              Piyush Mordia




Chennai is one of the most populous metropolitan cities of India. It is the capital of the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu .Normally, the city has very little rains. Last year , in the month of November, there were unprecedented heavy rains there when Chennai was hit with one cyclone after another. The rains broke all records with an unprecedented 1218 mm of rainfall, compared to 493 mm in 2009 when Chennai last had heavy rains.

The rains were so heavy that schools, colleges and offices were closed for most part of November 2015. Rivers which have had more sewage than water and lakes which have been absolutely dry for more than 20 years breached their banks leading to the submergence of surrounding areas.Water rose to the second floor of buildings in certain places. This resulted in intermittent power cuts and limited mobile connectivity across the city. And all this happened before the December 1st deluge.

The entire city came to a standstill, had power cuts lasting for 2 to 5 days. The city was dark and isolated.The telephone lines were disrupted.Chennai had never experienced anything so catastrophic ever before where even the connectivity between people had been cut off for so long.. If not for social media, the entire city would have been in the dark in more than one way.


Role played by social media:


During this period, a new trend was observed. Self motivated individuals created online communities and organized a large number of volunteers who worked relentlessly in the relief and rescue efforts. Social media became a medium to connect victims with rescue workers, provide information related to weather forecasts, coordinate the work of different public and private agencies and assure people that they are not being overlooked.


Objective of Research:


This Research Paper is an attempt to establish the link between the emergence of social media and its constructive use in bringing people together to cooperate in disaster management. The research paper attempts to gain an insight into the psyche of masses during disaster through the tweets and facebook messages posted by them.

It specifically studies  the innovative approaches , processes  and attitudes of online communities which were a game changer during Chennai floods.The paper seeks to address the following questions:



  1. What role did online communities play in mitigation and minimisation of crisis during Chennai Floods ?
  2. What specific role was played by Facebook, whats app , twitter and other social media platforms ?
  3. Is the e- governance movement in India designed to give a boost to  the growth of social media utilization during disasters?
  4. What specific challenges exist for social media platforms in India The paper also tries to draw comparison in the use of social media during the Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina crisis in USA with that of Chennai floods.



Research Methodology:


The paper will draw heavily on document analysis as its methodology.  As most of the stories are available online , the structural content will be  essentially based on the analysis of  these sites.  These websites are the primary source material for this work. The methodology requires that documents are studied, examined and then interpreted to find some consistent meanings and conclusions about the subject of study.

Conclusions drawn from the telephonic interviews of the officials involved in the mitigation of crisis will form an important component of the paper. Interviews of those who participated in the online communities’ voluntary work too are a part of the Research.


The contribution of social media in disaster management during Chennai Floods is another example of the power of organizing without organizations. It reemphasizes the analysis of Clay Shirkey in his book “Here Comes Everybody” and of Wael Ghonim in his book “Revolution 2.0” when he reminds us that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. It becomes even more important in the Indian context as its success in a country of 1200 million opens the door for its widespread use in future to the extent that it becomes a part of the culture. I hope this research paper is able to do justice to its objectives.


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