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Houston floods, but what about all the other disasters?

By Georgina Rannard
BBC UGC and Social News

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  • Sierra Leone mudslide
image copyrightOlivia Acland
image captionAbdul Mansaray cut a hole in the roof to escape the Sierra Leone mudslide with his family

When is a disaster not a disaster? When it takes place in certain parts of the world, according to some people on social media.

As Storm Harvey threatens Louisiana and leaves heavy floods across parts of Texas, thousands of people affected by disasters in Asia and Africa have also been tweeting and sharing pictures of their experiences.

But news outlets have focussed headlines and bulletins largely on the disaster in the US, prompting accusations from social media users of giving disproportionate attention to stories about wealthier countries.

"I hate that global media can be so swayed to do almost constant coverage of the tragedy in Texas with less than 1% of the same time dedicated to floods in India where 1,200 people have died and millions displaced," Samuel Onyemelukwe, from Nigeria, wrote in an email to the BBC.

South Asia

media captionTens of thousands were stranded as the city ground to a halt

Monsoon rain is causing devastation in parts of India, Bangladesh and Nepal, affecting 16 million people. Aid agencies are calling the floods one of the worst regional humanitarian crises in years.

On Tuesday, people in the city of Mumbai, India, tweeted about floods creating waist-deep water and widespread chaos, and killing at least five people including two toddlers.

Almost 400,000 tweets were sent with hashtags #MumbaiFloods and #MumbaiRains to share photographs, give advice, and offer shelter, and footage of flooding at Mulund Railway Station to the north-east of the city was also captured.

Some highlighted acts of kindness, including by a man who handed out biscuits to bus travellers and told them not to worry about the floods.

"Here in Mumbai, a friend stuck in a car to the airport for five hours told me that slum dwellers came out to serve stranded people tea and biscuits," wrote Anand Mahindra, CEO of the Mahindra Group, the massive global conglomerate headquartered in the city. His tweet was retweeted more than 5,000 times.

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In Bihar state, bordering Nepal, more than 500 people have died in flooding.

"While Mumbai suffers in the rain, let's pause to remember: more than 500 dead and counting in Bihar," journalist Rajdeep Sardesai wrote in a tweet that was liked 3,000 times and retweeted 2,000 times.


image copyrightAFP
image captionNiamey, the capital of Niger, has seen heavy rains since June

Relief efforts are continuing in Sierra Leone after a mudslide two weeks ago buried hundreds of people. At least 499 people died and people continue to search for victims.

Meanwhile, more than 40 people have been killed by flooding since June in Niger.

One man in Sierra Leone told the BBC how he broke a hole into his ceiling so his wife and children could climb out to escape.

"Pray for Sierra Leone, too," asked lawyer Qasim Rashid in a tweet last night that was liked almost 3,000 times.

image copyright@MuslimIQ

Mimi Mvakali from South Africa said she hated to compare disasters, but "the world easily turns a blind eye when it's Africa."

And others are drawing attention to ongoing crises in Yemen, Iraq and Syria that they feel are not being appropriately covered.

"I have relatives in Houston badly affected. I'm also thinking of Yemen and other countries across the world," commented British activist Clare Hepworth.

But some suggested that a hierarchy of disasters should not be created.

"Be it Syria, Sierra Leona, or Houston, people will grieve differently. People choose what affects them. Empathy can never be controlled," wrote @Tichaade.

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  • India floods: Toddlers killed in Mumbai rains