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In the Aftermath of Major Snowstorm, Crowdmapping the Recovery Effort in Ukraine

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, March 28 2013

The crisis map at HelpKyiv [screenshot].

Last week, a state of emergency was declared in Ukraine when a freak blizzard brought down nearly a month’s worth of snowfall over just 24 hours.  The storm shut down major thoroughfares during the afternoon commute on Friday in the capital city of Kiev, and caused power outages in hundreds of municipalities in the northwest region of the country. As the government struggles to restore transportation and infrastructure, a volunteer effort is crowdmapping information on shelters and other resources for storm victims – offered, in many cases, by an informal corps of citizen aid workers.

HelpKyiv is a crisis map site, similar in function to Ushahidi platforms that have been used during earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.  The site tracks geolocational information in nine categories [Ukrainian] – including places where victims are in dangers, volunteer sites that need additional help, and buildings with heat where victims can warm up.  Areas that require snow-shoveling volunteers, and especially assistance with transportation problems, are also highlighted.

Inadequate planning by city officials in Kiev may have been behind the blizzard’s devastating impact on the city.  The Ukrainian Journal reported today that the head of Kiev’s city administration, Oleksandr Popov, was at a soccer match in Poland with Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, on Friday as the storm was scheduled to hit.  Many in the Ukrainian media have expressed grief that the top official was not prepared in advance of the crisis, though a spokesperson for Popov said he was on the city streets on Friday evening and Saturday.

As a citizen effort, HelpKyiv dismisses these political mishaps to focus on the real issues of post-storm recovery, as they say on the site:

Today, we made a site for people who want to dig out Kiev, without waiting for Popov with a tractor and TV cameras.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.