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The Victorian bushfires have made headlines in Australia and internationally, the tragedy compounded by the fact that some of the fires were allegedly started intentionally.

While many large corporations have been flashing big bucks in support of the victims, a Melbourne-based interactive marketing agency has instead used its own expertise to launch a website giving practical help to those in need of emergency accommodation.

Bushfire Housing is a website that matches the victims of the Victorian bushfires with those willing to offer emergency accommodation. Those with spare rooms post details on the site, which bushfire victims can browse and use to get in touch with suitable hosts.

A simple online directory helps bushfire victims find suitable emergency accommodation
A simple online directory helps bushfire victims find suitable emergency accommodation

The site was set up by Melbourne interactive marketing agency Sputnik, based on a similar concept used to help victims of the Hurricane Katrina emergency in New Orleans. Sputnik is using a purely viral strategy to spread the word about Bushfire Housing, something that so far seems to be working, with over 600 offers of accommodation currently on the site.

The site is just one of several social media initiatives designed to help victims and their families, including a dedicated Google Map and Twitter feeds from ABC Radio Melbourne, CFA and Salvation Army Australia.

All these resources are a great example of how Web 2.0 can be quickly deployed to help those in need, rather than just helping the rest of us waste time at work.

Ben de Castella

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