Chennai, India’s fourth most populous city, is battling crisis. Torrential rains and a reservoir bursting its banks have meant that the city of nearly 5 million has been paralyzed, with little relief in sight.
Communication has been difficult, especially for people abroad that are worried about their family and friends at home. To help solve the problem, Skype has announced that all calls made to Chennai mobile and landline numbers will now be free.
“In light of the devastating floods in Chennai — and the subsequent impact to the local communications infrastructure — with immediate effect we are making all international calls to landlines and mobiles into Tamil Nadu free of charge for the next few days,” the Skype team wrote in a blog post.
Chennai has been flooding for weeks following a month of intense rainfall, with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying on Friday that the death toll is at 269, with thousands forced to evacuate their homes, calling it an “unprecedented calamity,” the Indian Express reports.
Skype, which lets users video chat and voice call over the Internet, is the latest tech company to use its reach to help people in a time of need, and follows Facebook’s expanding its Safety Check function last month. Safety Check automatically sends users in an affected area a note asking if they’re safe — when a user clicks “Yes, let me friends know,” the tool notifies their Facebook friends. The social network said it would utilise the function more widely in the wake of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
The Microsoft-owned company provided instructions in English, Hindi and Tamil to help people use the service. Skype offered similar services last month during the Paris Attacks and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.