Social Networks Reach Out To Ash Cloud Refugees

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People stranded in Europe, following the eruption the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano, are turning to social networks to find routes home

Travellers from around the world have been using social networks to contact each other for lift-shares and to find routes home, after the Icelandic volcano eruption on Friday grounded air flights across Europe.

Networks such as Twitter and Facebook have emerged as essential tools for those stranded, as many official travel information sites crashed under the pressure of online inquiries.

Making new connections

The Swedish car-pool movement has set up a Facebook group called Carpool Europe, connecting people offering or seeking car rides. Facebook and Twitter are also being used to source hotel rooms or alternative forms of transport, according to a report from gigaom.

Yesterday, a Dunkirk-style evacuation from France was organised by TV presenter Dan Snow (BBC’s History Hunter) for those unable to fly back to Britain. Tweeting as calaisrescue, Snow evacuated twenty-five people in three boats, before the authorities brought the rescue effort to a halt for health and safety reasons.

The hashtag #ashtag came into use on Twitter soon after the eruption, enabling people to discuss the disaster and share their experiences of trying to get home. Other tags, such as #roadsharing, #stranded, #getmehome and #putmeup have also emerged over the weekend, as the air travel chaos enters its fifth day.

Scond fissure opens near Eyjafjallajökull, Image by Henrik Thorburn on Wikimedia Commons
Second fissure opens near Eyjafjallajökull, Image by Henrik Thorburn on Wikimedia Commons

Many have also been using photo-sharing sites to share pictures of their surroundings and of the giant plume of ash emitting from the volcano. Baldvin Hansson, who flew over the volcano in a small plane, used Flickr to share his spectacular pictures of the ash cloud from above.

Others are blogging about their predicament as they sit in airports or hotels waiting for further information. Rita J. King, IBM innovator and CEO of Dancing Ink Productions, has blogged about her experiences as “a volcano refugee” in London, while artist Dominic Wilcox came up with this ingenious idea of how to solve the ash plume while stuck in Milan.

Businesses turn to video conferencing

Today it was also reported that European transport chiefs will be using video conferencing technology to discuss emergency measures in response to the eruption. The ad-hoc meeting will examine the economic effects of the flight suspensions, in particular on the air travel industry.

“Companies that already use remote collaboration tools on a daily basis will be aware of the cost and time savings that can be generated by meetings virtually,” said Alistair McKinnon, senior product manager at telecoms provider Virgin Media Business. “All businesses face unexpected disruption like this from time to time yet, while it may be impossible to predict the next big event that will impact your business, that does not mean that you cannot prepare for it in advance.”

Image by Henrik Thorburn used under Creative Commons Licence. Original work and licence here.


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