Silicon Beach: Twitter Hits Ground Running for Haiti Earthquake Relief

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Twitter proved a powerful communication tool when a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti yesterday afternoon, followed by a series of additional earthquakes well past midnight. Tweets began immediately after the first quake.

Trending topics on Twitter this morning about the earthquake are, thankfully, beating out American Idol: YELE, Help Haiti, Red Cross and Earthquake are the top four.

People in Haiti with mobile phones sent heart-wrenching pictures to Twitpic, a popular photo-sharing compliment to Twitter, soon after the disaster, including Twitter user Lisandro Suero (@lisandrosuero), who documented the aftermath firsthand.

With phone service down, radio and TV host Carel Pedre (@carelpedre) offered to serve as a messenger between those wanting to inquire about loved ones: "If U Need To get in Touch With Friends & Family in Haiti. Send me a Private Message with names and Phone Numbers. I'll get Back to U!"

Since yesterday, Twitter has seen an avalanche of retweets for various relief efforts. Musician Wyclef Jean (@wyclef), who announced on Twitter this morning that he's on his way to the Haiti via the Dominican Republic, put out a call for help though his grassroots organization Yele.org: "Help Haiti Earthquake Relief Donate $5 by texting YELE to 501 501 right now #haiti."  Support for Yele, which means "help" in Creole, must be overwhelming -- as of this morning it was impossible to access the site.

The Red Cross (@redcross) is also tweeting for support: "You can text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in #haiti."

Beyond financial contributions, some are simply showing solidarity by placing a Twibbon over their avatars that spells out "Pray4Haiti".

To follow the aftermath, simply search for #haiti or #haitihelp hashtags. Numerous interesting links are popping up, including one article about how the earthquake was long overdue, (via @pareidoliac). Edwidge Danticat, award-winning Haitian-American author who lives in Miami, also spoke up (via @tamlush).

Haiti was already a beleaguered, impoverished nation before the earthquake struck, but now social networks are provinding some relief.

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