A Spreadsheet’s 24 Hours to Save Hundreds of Lives in 1-in-500-year Rainfall Event

tencent doc
(Source: Pandaily)

When heavy rains on July 20 started to pound Zhengzhou, the capital of east-central China’s Henan province, inundating streets, flooding residential buildings and wreaking havoc on the entire city, one college girl, with the help of a simple spreadsheet, may have saved hundreds of lives.

The fate of that single electronic sheet, circulated among thousands of kind-hearted people within 24 hours, is a story about saving lives, love and technology, and has touched the heart of the entire society.

  • July 20

8:57 p.m. (the first hour)

(Source: Tencent)

Two volunteers joined Manto to collect information from all channels across the web. More content was added, each with a different color.

Initially, Manto and her friends thought of using Excel, but the severity and urgency of the scenario prompted them to reconsider. They instead chose Tencent Docs, as it was efficient, ready-to-use, and could be edited by a host of people simultaneously, valuable features in a time of an emergency when people needed to pass on information as soon as possible. Another reason they chose the collaborative spreadsheet was that the people waiting for help could open the spreadsheet in a host of popular Chinese mobile applications including WeChat and QQ.

  • July 20

10:57 p.m. (the second hour)

“I’m stuck in my house”,

“my relative is unaccounted for”,

“I have no food and no water”,

“my phone is dead”

– as the sheet continued to update, more and more people sent their SOS information.

  • July 20

11:12 p.m. (the third hour)

“We are getting into the car back home!”

Finally, during the third hour, a family of two kids was out of the woods. And they were among one of the first who got help through the sheet.

  • July 21

00:59 a.m. (the fifth hour)

Urgency levels were upgraded to highlight the priority of the rescue task.

Manto created four WeChat groups for volunteers, where they could share and verify information.

  • July 21

08:19 a.m. (the 12th hour)

As the number of people with the ability to edit the file simultaneously reached its maximum, Tencent Docs’ product team raised the limit.

  • July 21

1:57 p.m. (the 17th hour)

The whole spreadsheet was transformed into a transfer station upon which netizens left their heart-warming messages.

  • July 21

6:59 p.m. (the 23rd hour)

The number of SOS messages surpassed one thousand.

  • July 21

9:09 p.m. (the 24th hour)

The race against the clock persisted as more people resorted to the spreadsheet to ask for help and more and more rescue forces, with water filter pitchers, bottled water, menstrual pads and other supplies came to the rescue.

……

Manto, whose real name is Li Rui, believes these were not her efforts alone. She appreciates her classmates who willfully joined her philanthropic project by throwing their energy and wisdom into the collective efforts. There are also hundreds of volunteers who have arduously collected, verified and matched the information received on the document.

Besides them, there were also many Tencent employees who offered their expertise to the disaster relief efforts. Among them are engineers from Tencent Docs who helped maintain dozens of online documents like Manto’s, product designers from Tencent Maps who have drawn from their experience during the Covid-19 epidemic and applied it to search and rescue efforts in the torrential rain, employees from the Tencent Security Center who helped establish a database of emergency numbers, Tencent’s whole product line, including WeChat, Tencent Docs, Tencent Maps, Tencent News, Tencent Security Center and Tencent Medicine. They made a WeChat group called “Hold on Zhengzhou” in which members discussed all sorts of technological requirements made during this difficult time by people waiting for help. The moment someone suggested their ideas and requirements in the WeChat group, within seconds other team members would follow up.

Tech giants like Alibaba, ByteDance among other companies have each offered their financial, material and technological support to the affected regions.

Together, they have transformed technology into a heart-warming, effective and efficient tool that may have saved the lives of thousands of people.

……

As of July 22, 33 people have lost their lives in this rainfall event in Zhengzhou – unprecedented in the modern era – while eight people were still missing, according to Xinhua News Agency.

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