Meet the men behind three social media accounts showing the havoc caused by rain and flooding in Tirupati

Besides photos and videos of heavy rain and sewer overflow, the posts include the routes to avoid

“Tirupati has never seen this situation in 25 years,’ said a message accompanied by pictures and videos of the flooding that showed Tirupati and its surrounding areas under water. Social media is agog with pictures and videos of the havoc caused by the recent heavy rains and flooding. Meet the individuals behind the three social media accounts that turned the spotlight on the situation.

Reaching out

Nithin Kumar | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It was a photograph of a ghat road that put Nithin Kumar and Prudhvi Raj of @itsmytirupati in a fix. The photo that showed erosion due to the landslide was claimed to be on the Tirumala ghat road. “Heavy rains had indeed created a tough situation at Tirumala but we had to be careful,” says Nithin. The duo immediately forwarded it to their network to clarify. “It turned out the photo was of Mysore and not Tirumala,” shares Nithin.

During the incessant rains and heavy flooding in Tirupati region, the duo has had to regularly filter out fake videos from the real ones. Over their seven-year social media journey, they have developed a big network of friends and followers — Facebook 116 k and Instagram 96.3k — who help in filtering fake news. “We ask our friends living in the area to check the place or we call and check with the residents,” says Nithin.

Prudhvi Raj | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

B Tech graduates Nithin and Prudhvi, employees of NoBroker Technologies and Logixhealth Pvt Ltd respectively, were one of the first to start @iam tirupathi page in 2014. “We felt the earlier Tirupati-related pages were not giving much information on the town,” shares Nithin. The two used to manage the account while working in Bengaluru, and now are working from home in Tirupati due to the pandemic.

Besides giving out entertainment-centric news and info on touristy places, the account promotes new restaurants and salons. Since the pandemic they have been posting on the availability of plasma, vaccines and food during the lockdown. They now post messages on routes to avoid and photos/videos of heavy rain and sewer overflow by tagging the Tirupati Municipal Corporation, politicians of the area and the Tirupati police. Nithin adds these posts help many people living in Tirupati and also tourists who plan trips accordingly. “We do feel happy when our followers send a thank you message for the alerts. It encourages us to do more.”

Providing a platform

Shashidhar K | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“I wanted to clear the assumption that Tirupati and Tirumala are one; they are two different towns. I also want to provide a platform to showcase the beauty of Tirupati,” says Shashidhar K of @beautifultirupathi. He receives photos and videos through multiple sources and also collaborates with weather blogger Sai Praneeth, (AP Weatherman96) to share information.

His followers numbering 117k on Facebook and 59.5k on Instagram are constantly updated on the situation.

Two recent videos that captured attention were of a house caving in at Tiruchanoor near Swarnamukhi river and of massive flooding on the Alipiri stairway to Tirumala. “The video of water gushing down Alipiri steps taken on a phone by a follower was helpful and officials closed the Alipiri and Srivari Mettu route for two days soon after this was seen.”

Shashidhar says common people send these videos/photos to the account. “When I give them credit, others are inspired to send.” One of his followers travelled from Tirupati to Kadapa and sent him four videos of a bus that had got stuck in floodwaters.

Shashidhar balances his marketing job with his passion for photography. An accident in 2017 had left him immobile for six months, which paved the way for a social media journey. “I love Nature and used to post such photographs,” he recalls. The 100 videos that he receives every day now also keep him on his toes as he checks for their authenticity. “Since I am also a photographer, I ask the sender to mail only photos and ask them about the camera settings, aperture and shutter speed.”

To make an impact

Siva Kesava Murthy celebrated a social media milestone in November as his account (@tirupati_the_spiritualcapital) completed four years on Instagram. Little did he realise that his Insta handle with posts on tourist places, food and events happening in Tirupati would soon have to broadcast the flooding and devastation caused by heavy rains in the temple town. “The flooding was unprecedented and I had to update people on it,” he says over the phone from Tirupati.

Twenty-five-year old Siva had set up an Instagram account to highlight different facets of Tirupati. His photos/videos and those that he received — of new restaurants, unexplored places, waterfalls and historical temples — soon built up a base of 60k followers.

Where earlier he would post around 10 photographs and two videos that he received every day in the three hours he spent on social media, now he spends 15 hours and posts 50 videos. Using only his Redmi phone to post, edit and share photos and videos received from friends and followers, he suffers from pain in his thumb and hand.

“Sometimes I receive more than 10 videos and photographs of flooding taken from the same area. Since they are short videos of 20 to 50 seconds, I either club a couple of them or post those which show the severity and more damage.”

Siva checks for fake videos with friends and residents of the area and also Google. “Unless I confirm that its veracity, I don’t post it.”

Siva had considered shutting the Instagram account but could not bring himself to do it. “I have built a network of people and being a native of Tirupati, it is my duty to help through social media during this crisis.” He is now preparing for UPSC Civil Services while continuing posting alerts.

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