Just two weeks after Facebook initiated its Safety Check tool in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, the social network has now activated it for those affected by the severe flooding in the Indian city of Chennai and surrounding areas, which has seen thousands driven from homes after heaviest rainfall in more than a century -- with the death toll already reaching 188.
Facebook's Safety Check tool asks users if they are "in the affected area" and would like to notify their friends of their safety. For users outside of Chennai, the tool instantly lets them know if any of their friends are in the vicinity and if they are OK. "Quickly find and connect with friends in the area. Mark them safe if you know they're OK," Facebook said. The tool can also be used to search for specific friends. Additionally, if you are aware of someone's safety and want to notify their friends, you can search for that person and hit "Mark Safe."
Torrential rainfall continued to wreak havoc Wednesday in Chennai, the capital city of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The state government issued flood warnings in Chennai and evacuated thousands of people from the city's coastal areas.
Fresh spell of rains began in Chennai on Monday evening flooding most of the regions. Chennai has been battling rains since early November due to slow-moving low pressure over southwest Bay of Bengal.
Besides Facebook, those affected have begun to use Twitter to help coordinate a response to the natural disaster. Chennai residents announced on the microblogging site that they would welcome those affected by the downpour and also provide food. "If we can't offer help in this hour of crisis, then what's the worth of human life? I am feeling helpless that I can't go to the affected areas because the roads are submerged. The least I can do is to open my house to people," Pushparaj Britto, a Chennai resident, told the BBC Wednesday.
— subash (@suby7765) December 2, 2015
Facebook's Safety Check tool was introduced in October 2014, building on a system the company’s engineers in Japan created after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami called the Disaster Message Board. Since Safety Check’s official release, Facebook has deployed it six times in 2015 -- following the earthquakes in Afghanistan, Chile and Nepal; Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific; Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines and most recently the Paris terror attacks.
Somewhat controversially, however, the company did not activate it for bombings in Beirut, which happened at the same time, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg explaining the decision by saying that the tool was still in development and that the Paris attacks was the first time the tool was deployed for an incident other than a natural disaster. "We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can," Zuckerberg said.