Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – A state of panic struck Saudi Arabia as a whole, and the people of Jeddah in particular, as torrential rains caused flooding throughout the city. However, the people of Jeddah utilized the Blackberry messenger service to exchange information, both true and false, during these difficult circumstances.
Saudi Arabian eye-witnesses stressed that the information that they were spreading via Blackberry messenger was, for the most part, correct, except for the statistics relating to the number of people who had drowned in the flooding.
One volunteer, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that they had rescued a man who had been swept away by the floods whilst trying to rescue his own children after their car came to a stop on one of Jeddah’s bridges.
This volunteer told Asharq Al-Awsat “I was present at the intersection of 70th Street and Granada Street which was flooded with water [when we saved this man].” He also revealed that “I received information via Blackberry that a flash flood was approaching this area…from one of my friends who was forced to abandon his car and flee after seeing the approaching flash flood.”
This volunteer also revealed that his brother had informed him of the presence of flooding on Palestine Street which he had observed from the top of the hospital building where he is employed. He also revealed that he had received a telephone call from a friend living in the Umm Al-Khair district who informed him that the flood barrier there had collapsed, and that flood levels there reached 2 meters.”
He added “Blackberry messenger was one of the fast ways of transferring information about what was happening, for example, in the Bani Malik district the flooding completely submerged the ground floor of houses. This is something that my brother, who lives in the area, confirmed.”
The volunteer, who was speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, also revealed that the latest information about the flooding in the al-Naseem district was also revealed via Blackberry messenger, and that the flooding there had completely submerged the vehicles in the street. In addition to this, many Blackberry users had taken pictures of the flooding and displayed these via Blackberry messenger so as to confirm the situation on the ground.
Taysar al-Jaishi, the President of the Saudi environmentalist volunteer society in Jeddah revealed that he received a lot of information via Blackberry messenger from members of the club who were deployed throughout Jeddah.
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Jaishi said that “I received information about some schools being used to house flood victims…as well as warnings of cars falling from bridges [due to the flooding].”
He also stated that he had received information about the possibility of a flood striking the Kilo 2 district [of Jeddah] from the direction of Old Mecca. He added that approximately 20 volunteers, equipped with SUVs, were deployed in this region in order to rescue anybody caught up in the floods, and that these volunteers were in coordination with him via Blackberry.
Al-Jaishi added “there are volunteers present in the Quwaizah district, as well as on Al-Andulus Street, northern Jeddah, and the districts adjacent to Breiman Bridge.” He also revealed that “we have people monitoring the weather via satellites 24 hours a day and they are [also] attempting to obtain new information from the meteorological office, as well as seeking to coordinate with the Civil Defense.”
One of the volunteers, Mohamed al-Madani, confirmed that the information that was being uploaded via Blackberry was completely correct, with the exception of some statistics and figures, which should be referred to the official authorities.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat “the Quwaizah district was closed, and no vehicles were allowed to enter or exit. The Civil Defense was unable to reach this district, and the ground floor of houses in this area began to collapse, and this is what prompted the Civil Defense to call on people to move to still-standing buildings and not leave the area.”