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Maps Created to Avoid Riots and Looting in South Africa

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A week of violence in South Africa led to more than 100 deaths. In the meantime, two initiatives reference hazardous areas in interactive maps.

South Africa has been living with intense riots and looting, after that the former president, Jacob Zuma, was incarcerated for not appearing at his corruption trial. In a country suffering from high unemployment rates, the situation quickly escalated. The military has been deployed to help the police manage the situation.

As violence hits the streets of South Africa, primarily in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, two initiatives keep track of the riots in the streets.

A map references the areas people ought to avoid if they don’t want to be in middle of riots or looting. It shows color-schemed areas according to danger and events. The map has been created and managed by two individuals, including a marketing expert of Google products, by using the feature Google My Map.

Map of violence in Gauteng
Google My Map showing zones with riot or looting in the province of Gauteng | Screenshot

Manual updates of riot, looting or arson in South Africa

This kind of map can be created and personalized by anyone, and shared publicly. This one can receive contributions from other users even though the administrator mentions the information would be verified before publication. The map, called “Riot/looting within Gauteng“, which encompasses the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, has received more than 3 million views on July 16, a view count that tripled in two days.

Another initiative recording the events has been largely used by South Africans. The map called Unrest tracker records the events into three different categories: looting, arson or other unrest.

The platform hosting the data, created by Christopher Wood and supported by his fiancé Devi Pillay, uses news media reports, public information or community help to manually feed and update the map. The information provided is not comprehensive but as of July 16, the map recorded a total of 308 incidents throughout the country. So far, the peak was on July 12 with 120 incidents, most of them due to looting.

Because of its popularity, the map has been replicated on a second hosting platform to support the traffic it receives.

Unrest map tracker in South Africa
The Unrest Map tracker for South Africa's July 2021 unrest | Screenshot

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