Parisians offer 'open door' to strangers

  • 14/11/2015

People in Paris took to social media to find and offer refuge, as the city was gripped by chaos following a string of attacks that left dozens dead.

The Twitter hashtag #porteouverte, which means "open door" in English, was being used to offer shelter on Friday night as authorities urged people to evacuate the streets. The hashtag trended globally, with more than 400,000 tweets using it, in the few hours since its creation.

"This account will be used for tweeting and retweeting places to stay safe tonight," said a post from @PorteOuverteFRA, a Twitter handle opened within hours of the attacks.

Dozens of addresses and phone numbers for apartments were being tweeted on the handle, and it was retweeting offers of accommodation from other individuals.

A post from @LaraPlowright, written in mixed English and French, read: "Anyone stuck around gare du nord area, si besoin (if needed) #porteouverte quartier Gare du Nord, peut loger 2-3 personnes (can accommodate 2-3 people)."

Other posts on the tag said taxis were offering free transport for anyone in need a lift to shelter.

Still, some people found the process confusing amid the chaos.

"I'm not using the tag at the moment, but people are stuck in various areas and cannot leave, I hear," said Alessandra Gargiulio, who was waiting for her landlord's permission to open up her apartment for the night.

Gargiulio, 24, lives in the 24th arrondissement on the other side of the city from the attacks, but said she could see and hear helicopters and sirens from her apartment. She spoke to Reuters via Facebook messenger.

"We're super scared here, it's hell, but we'll use the tag and it's worth trying everything," said Maria Vittoria Zanetti, 23, who had just become aware of the tag. Zanetti, also contacted over Facebook, is stuck at a friend's apartment in the 2nd arrondissement.

Both Gargiulio and Zanetti, 23, have used the Facebook Safety Check to let friends know they are safe.

The Paris Terror Attacks safety check lets people signal whether they are out of harm's way, then notifies all those they know at the leading social network.

"Quickly find and connect with friends in the area," a message at the Facebook Safety Check page reads. "Mark them safe if you know they're OK."

The feature also allows people to check which friends listed as being in Paris are yet to check in as safe.

"We are shocked and saddened by the events unfolding in Paris," a Facebook spokesman told AFP.

"Communication is critical in these moments both for people there and for their friends and families anxious for news."