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Facebook fights flooding with UK flood volunteer aid

Facebook has waded in on the UK flood disaster relief efforts, harnessing the scope of its gargantuan social network to put those affected by the rising waters in contact with local flood volunteers.

When those living in an area affected by flooding logs into Facebook via mobile or desktop, a message will appear at the top of their homepage. Reading "Affected by the UK floods? Flood Volunteers can connect you with the people in your local area who can help," the advert will directly link those in need to, where they'll be paired with the kind folk offering help.

The floodvolunteers initiative is the result of an event last weekend that brainstormed ways technology could aid the flood relief effort. It was set up by London-based start-up Taskhub, with offers of help including homes for pets, removal services and temporary accommodation.

"Since Facebook reaches so many people in the affected areas, my colleague Pieter and I thought a newsfeed message to direct people to the Flood Volunteer website would be a simple way to help get help to people in need," said Alec Muffett, a Facebook engineer. "We are excited that we've been able to roll it out so quickly."

The system works by feeding off the recently released data from the Environment Agency, which provides practically real-time information on where floods are occurring around the country.

Cleverly, if news surfaces of a new area suffering extreme flooding Facebook will use geo-targeting to ensure the offer-of-aid message will be seen by those in the locations most likely to be affected. If you live far away from flood-hit areas you shouldn't see any messages.

The Environment Agency has promised it will continue to make its flood data freely available for the next three months only. After that time, if the data is no longer accessible, the site will no longer be available to operate.

Image via CarbonAction