“Yuko had forbidden her to watch TV or get on the Internet, but Kathy couldn’t resist. She searched for her husband’s name. She searched for their address, their company. She searched for any sign that her husband had been found. She found nothing about him, but found other, terrible things. All over the web she found news of the violence and evidence of its overstatement. One page would report hundreds of murders, crocodiles in the water, gangs of men rampaging. Another page would report that no babies had been raped. That there had been no murders in the Superdome, no deaths in the Convention Center. There was no end to the fear and confusion, the racist assumptions and rumor-mongering.”
Dave Eggers’ bestselling book Zeitoun, from which the above excerpt is taken, recounts the true story of a man’s experience paddling through the submerged city of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. His family endured torture from Bâton Rouge, Phoenix, Spain and Syria as they were bombarded with images from the media’s apocalyptic portrayal of the storm, and yet the practical information they would have needed in order to help him was out of reach.
In times of emergency, quick access to accurate information can be a life or death matter. During a storm like Hurriane Katrina in 2005, or Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall in the U.S. Gulf Coast last week, sources of information such as newspapers, websites, and broadcasters play a vital role in the day-to-day lives of those affected.