(CBS) — Many incredible rescues from Hurricane Harvey were due in part to social media.
As CBS News’ Omar Villafranca reports, Twitter played a key role of knowing where people needed help fast.
Inside the La Vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson, Texas about 30 miles southwest of downtown Houston, residents sat in flood waters.
Ruth Miller was one of 15 elderly residents stranded. Susan Bobrick is her sister.
“They had already called 911 and even the TV was saying don’t call 911 anymore,” Bobrick said. “Because 911 was just innundated. And nobody is coming to rescue them.”
The woman who owns the nursing home took the photo. Her son-in-law posted it on Twitter with the caption: “Need help asap emergency services. Please RETWEET.”
It was re-tweeted hundreds of times. CBS spoke with him on the phone from his Florida home.
“I don’t do a whole lot of tweeting, but I was like, well, let’s put it on Twitter, see if we can get some action from it,” said Timothy McIntosh.
About three hours after he tweeted the photo, all 15 senior citizens were rescued. CBS cameras were rolling as three women we believe were part of that group were lifted onto a rescue vehicle.
“My thanks are definitely out to not just the authorities, but also to all the Twitter followers that actually believed the story and re-tweeted it and got everything in motion,” McIntosh said.
An official CBS spoke with said rescuers were already on the way when the photo started getting attention online.
It was just one of many social media posts calling attention to people needing rescues, including a Facebook group with over 80,000 followers formed during the storm.
But agencies including FEMA, the US Coast Guard and the Houston Police Department asked people not to use social media for rescue requests. Houston Police said “911 is the best way to capture your request and make sure it is properly dispatched.”
UPDATE: Rescue teams learned of this situation and saved the seniors. The group was taken to another facility where they are save and dry.