Ulla and I were going to Khao Lak this Sunday to stay in a beach bungalow for two weeks. When I woke up to the news a few hours after the tsunami had hit and checked the travel agency web site, a news flash reported that Phuket had been damaged, but that Khao Lak had not suffered as badly.
As it turned out this information was false. Today the representative of the Finnish foreign minitry was quoted in Helsingin Sanomat, the main newspaper, saying that “Khao Lak in effect no longer exists.” Khao Lak now has the highest body count of all the Thai beaches.
In the midst of the chaos, the Finnish Raya Divers guys were going around finding survivors, helping them get medical treatment, and texting their names to Alex (a fellow Aula member) and a group of friends who run a diving weblog at sukellus.fi. While the ministry’s phone numbers were jammed by the volume of incoming calls from worried relatives, the sukellus.fi blog had information that was accessible and up to date. The hobby blog suddenly turned into a kind of Schindler’s list of survivors, and the number of daily visitors rocketed to hundreds of thousands.
To me it is a startling example of the power that ‘we media‘ can obtain in a crisis situation. It’d be interesting to hear what crisis management experts (for instance, folks working on The Information Technology and Crisis Management project) think about the sukellus.fi incident.
Update: On March 30th, 2005 Alex and the rest of the Sukellus.fi guys received the ‘State Prize’ (10,000 Euros) from the Finnish Government for ‘Fast and up-to-date sharing of information about the boxing day catastrophy in South-East Asia.’ In less than a week’s time, the pages served over 900,000 visitors.