Sunday 25 September 2016

Brussels: Facebook users 'mark themselves safe' as Belgians help those stranded with hashtag #PorteOuverte

Belgians open their doors to those affected by attacks with #IkWillHelpen hashtag

Louise Kelly and Meadhbh McGrath

Published 22/03/2016 | 12:05

A woman is evacuated in an ambulance by emergency services after a explosion in a main metro station in Brussels (AP)
A woman is evacuated in an ambulance by emergency services after a explosion in a main metro station in Brussels (AP)

Facebook has activated its Safety Check feature following the deadly explosions in Brussels this morning.

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The purpose of the tool is to allow users to tell their 'friends' that they are safe in the event of an incident in their area.

A user's location is guessed by the social media platform - and this user can then mark themselves safe, an action which can appear as a public post for their friends.

“Quickly find and connect with friends in the area,” the message that shows up for users says. “Mark them safe if you know they’re OK.”

Credit: Facebook
Credit: Facebook

The safety feature was first turned on last November after the Paris shootings but has also been used in the wake of similar incidents.

With phone networks down across Belgium, social media users urged Facebook to turn the feature on to facilitate communication.

The country's crisis group CrisisCenter Belgium has advised people not to phone or text but to use social media instead.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Belgians are opening their doors to those affected by the explosions that rocked the capital this morning.

Brussels has gone into lockdown following the deadly blasts, and with flights cancelled and public transport shut down, many people have been left stranded around the city.

Twitter users have been tweeting with the hashtag #PorteOuverte (or #OpenDoor) – which first spread on social media during the Paris terror attacks last November – to offer safe haven to those in need.

The hashtags #OpenHouse, #BrusselsWelcome and #IkWillHelpen (which translates as “I want to help”) have also emerged on social media to coordinate transport and shelter.

People are using the hashtags to signal that they need a car ride or a place to stay, and are receiving responses from people living in the city inviting them into their homes. 

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