Ahmedabad, 11 Aug 2006: For many Surtis, help came through the Net. Two friends chipped in with their bit in rescue and relief operations using Google Earth to help Indian Air Force in air-dropping relief material to those who were marooned or stranded atop rooftops.
Arvind Patel, a textile businessman with a digital studio and Pravin Patel, who deals in solar systems, got together and helped IAF target air-droppings to exact degrees of longitude and latitude.
Using Google Earth maps of Surat city, the duo passed on exact locations of societies, houses and apartments in need of rescue and relief, to airport authorities.
The co-ordinates were then relayed to helicopter captains to be logged on to their GPS devices and locate the homes. By Friday evening, they had managed 47 targeted air drops.
Helping them put their virtual idea into reality were airport and municipal authorities who immediately agreed to the plan.
"We got this idea and approached airport and municipal authorities. They co-operated and the systems were in place this morning," said Pravin.
It was for fun that the duo had downloaded Google Earth, that shows satellite images of most cities of the world to one metre resolution. Each of SuratŐs flood-affected buildings was present on the map, giving the friends the idea.
"It was a great help," informed airport official Jignesh Dave. Municipal officer Jatin Desai, who is with the Disaster Management Cell, said he received exact co-ordinates from Pravin and Arvind on SMS which he forwarded to wing commanders of IAF.
"It was a valuable help from the two. Generally, air-dropping aid is not well targeted, but this was a novel idea that clicked," said Desai.
S K Agrawal, a Reliance official who came with his request for relief to be provided to people marooned in a building, was all praise for the system.
"It was an excellent idea implemented well. I can pass on these co-ordinates to Reliance helicopters also," Agrawal said. Officials wondered if they could have struck upon this idea before, it would have helped many more people as carpet air-dropping of aid leads to lots of wastage.
For Arvind and Pravin it was easy to identify buildings and other landmarks as they "know the city like the back of their hands".