Australia: Cyber Cyclone Yasi Strikes

Category 5 mega Cyclone Yasi struck the North Queensland coast late on Wednesday 2 February 2011. Reflecting recent disasters around the world, both new and old Australian media have played complementary roles during the crisis.

Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere were not just major sources of information and support for the community, they were readily embraced by the mainstream media, particularly television, and both the print and online versions of daily newspapers.

Facebook has been a focal point, of course. Many new groups or pages have sprung up. Typical was Cyclone Yasi Update, which has over 90,000 Likes. Their message at 8 am drew 37 comments with 330 people liking it. Thanks to Garrett Wells and team:

More good news, because Yasi slowed down before it hit the coast, it hit on a falling tide, not a rising tide, and the storm surge that was possible did not eventuate and many areas that were expecting innundation were not affected by any surge….Garrett

Online magazine New Matilda followed one indigenous community with a series of updates:

Yesterday we reported that the mostly Indigenous community of Palm Island, off the coast of Townsville, was unprepared for the approaching tropical cyclone.

We spoke to residents on the island who told us they feared for their lives and questioned why the entire island hadn’t been evacuated. They said much of the housing on the island was not built to withstand a storm of Yasi’s strength.

Thankfully the island was not as badly hit by the cyclone as expected. Queensland police have told us that all residents are okay, although power has been cut and the phone lines are down.
Palm Island Pulls Through Yasi

As usual group blog Larvatus Prodeo has been active. This little gem is worth a visit:

The mainstream media coverage of natural disasters tends to filter local, lived experience through a narrow set of affective categories. This is largely because mass media rely on moral narratives: the evil of the cyclone/flood/fire, the goodness of the state in the aftermath, the evil of looters etc. These narratives makes for much more compelling viewing, but they’re often patronizing, self-serving and gloss over the multiplicity of connections between people, their belonging and the stuff of society: roads, electricity networks. Little wonder Bob Katter yesterday complained of media terrorizing residents with fear mongering.

Enter duckhand.

In the midst of ABC News 24 coverage last night, a duck hand moved across the live Townsville webcam.
Disaster Humour

The 8 second video is available here.

Twitter tag #duckhand has been almost as popular as #tcyasi.

A couple of tweets:

mediahunter Craig Wilson has a poor opinion of mainstream television current affairs shows:

The misery of North Queenslanders has been compounded by arrival of crews from A Current Affair & TodayTonight. #TCYasi

GuidoTresoldi enjoyed the gallows humour:

I would like to propose that #tcyasi #duckhand be nominated for Australian of the Year.

Meanwhile The Age, Melbourne's daily newspaper, is typical of old media who have been running live blogs:

As Cyclone Yasi stormed towards the Queensland Coast, we tracked the news from the ground, the web and around the world.
Cyclone Yasi live blog – Wednesday

As well as regular news updates The Age has a ‘Twitter Conversation’, a feed of several popular tags.

Television stations have relied heavily on Twitter, Youtube and social media such as Facebook for much of their content especially stories, videos and photos. That’s beyond the scope of this post as is the wider blogosphere.

A Google blog search for “cyclone yasi’ found 113,000 results. Be my guest!

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