After Lebanon blasts, an app to tell loved ones 'I am alive!'
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Lebanese municipality forklift removes a damaged car at the site of a car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. AP PhotoWith three bomb attacks in January alone, Lebanese are getting used to reassuring loved ones at home and abroad that they have survived. And now there's an app for that.
"I am Alive," is the somewhat macabre brainchild of 26-year-old Sandra Hassan, a Lebanese masters student living in Paris.
It allows users to quickly tweet a standard message after an attack: "I am still alive!" with the hashtags #Lebanon and #LatestBombing.
Hassan uploaded the smartphone app on Tuesday, in the wake of a suicide car bomb in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik that killed four people.
The blast was the third to hit Lebanon this month, coming after a car bomb in the northern town of Hermel and an earlier bombing that also targeted Haret Hreik.
"Every time there's an explosion or similar event in Lebanon we all rush to our phones, wracking our brains for friends or family that we know live or work in the area that we need to get in touch with," Hassan told AFP.
The problem is even more acute for her, as she lives far from her friends and family in Lebanon.
"After the explosion on Tuesday, I developed and published this app as a joke, a sort of dark humour, that in the situation we are currently living in such an application could be practical," she said.
The app for Android phones has only been online for 48 hours, so as of yet there are no statistics on how many people have downloaded it.
But Hassan said she was taken aback by the level of interest in something she had planned as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the situation in Lebanon.
She even promises users on the app page that she is planning a new app to allow Lebanese politicians to tweet pro-forma condemnations of each new attack.
"I did not expect the feedback that the application got at all, nor did I expect to receive requests for bettering the app and making it a real tool to be used to reach out to loved ones," she said.
Lebanon is no stranger to violence. It suffered a brutal 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, and a string of political assassinations from 2005.
But after a period of relative calm, the country has seen a sharp uptick in violence linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
That means there's a market for the app Hassan has created, something she can't quite celebrate.
"The fact that it could actually serve a practical purpose is a bitter pill to swallow."