Social media came to the aid of residents of Paris after Friday’s attacks left at least 129 dead, with people using Facebook and Twitter to tell their loved ones they were safe and to find shelter and transportation.
Soon after terrorists targeted at least seven locations in the French capital, Parisians launched the hashtag #PorteOuverte – which translates to #OpenDoor – to help stranded people find shelter.
#PorteOuverte, which trended across the world, had garnered more than 550,000 tweets by Friday afternoon. It was the second-most used keyword on Twitter in France after #fusillade (shooting), which was used 700,000 times.
“#PorteOuverte is a sign of the resilience of the French nation .. one that has handled much worse catastrophes and are still strong.” said one tweet.
Rohan Singh Kalsi, a Coventry-based Sikh, used the #PorteOuverte hashtag and tweeted that gurdwaras in Paris would aid people seeking shelter.
Anybody who's stranded in Paris and needs shelter and somewhere safe, any Sikh Gurdwara (temple) will be happy to accommodate #PorteOuverte— Rohan (@RohanSinghKalsi) November 13, 2015
“If people are stranded, I can accommodate two of three people on Rue des Martyrs,” offered one Twitter user, while WroteGabDeLioncourt said: “Our sofa is always available for two/three people in Maraichers.”
Others set up an emergency website “porteouverte.eu” to help people find temporary shelter.
In a rare gesture of solidarity, cabbies offered free rides to people trying to get home from the areas in the heart of Paris targeted by the terrorists.
France 24 reports Paris taxi drivers have switched off meters, taking people home for free.— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) November 13, 2015
Facebook created a “Paris Terror Attacks” page with a “safety check” feature that allowed people in the French capital to tell others they were safe.
“Quickly find and connect with friends in the area,” said the message on the page. “Mark them safe if you know they’re OK.”
The page allowed people to check which friends listed as being in Paris had not yet checked in as safe.
“We are shocked and saddened by the events unfolding in Paris,” a Facebook spokesman told AFP. “Communication is critical in these moments both for people there and for their friends and families anxious for news.”
On Saturday, Facebook rolled out a feature that allows users to highlight their profile picture with the colours of the French flag as a gesture of solidarity.
Internet users posted poignant appeals on Twitter to find loved ones who had been at the scenes of the attacks, including the Stade de France stadium and a rock concert at Bataclan theatre.
“If anyone has news of Lola, aged 17, at #Bataclan this evening, contact us,” read one post, while another expressed concern for a friend who was also at the concert. “He’s not getting back to me: help me,” it read.
Eight attackers struck seven locations around Paris, leaving at least 120 people dead, the bloodiest such incident in Europe for more than a decade.
(With inputs from agencies)