Last month, we noted how a mysterious nighttime explosion in Kabul sent Twitter abuzz and jittery Afghanistan-based journalists into the streets to investigate what happened. Well, it's happening again right now, and the cast of characters--along with some new additions--is back.
Here's how it all started. At about 1:50 PM EST (a little after 10 PM in Afghanistan), several journalists and others in Kabul simultaneously--we're talking within seconds--reported on Twitter hearing a big explosion:
- Journalist Natalie Righton: "Just heard an explosian in #kabul, hrard it in qalleh fatullah area"
- Journalist Matthieu Aikins: "Boom, from the direction of airport rd."
- Aid worker Challiss McDonough: "Anyone else in #Kabul just hear a smallish explosion?"
- Twitter user @heyosita: "am i hearing things? sounded like a big explosion just now.."
- Photojournalist Joel van Houdt: "that was a boom in Kabul,... sounded pretty close to Qalle-e Fatullah,.. anybody knows where????"
- Journalist Bette Dam: "Boom in #kabul."
- Journalist Courtney Body: "In Taimani on phone with someome at US Embassy, both heard loud boom. Where/what was it #kabul ?"
It wasn't long before all these witnesses started connecting with one another. "Right, ok, that would be three who tweeted about the blast in the time it took me to type that last tweet on my blackberry," marveled Mcdonough. The first order of business was to determine where the blast came from. Righton explained that she heard sirens and that the blast seemed to have come from the northwest, not from the airport in the east. But Aikins, who was out on the street when he heard what sounded like a rocket or controlled explosion, insisted the noise came from the direction of the airport. Righton soon came around to his theory. "Now i hear helicopter fly above #kabul, towards east (airport), but i heard explosian in west, maybe mountains are changing sound," she mused, adding that was now hearing sirens from the airport. McDonough reassured her: "pretty normal for sound to ricochet off the mountains & confuse people about blast direction. i heard the helos overhead too." Van Houdt, meanwhile, did what he did during the last explosion in May: hopped in a car and drove around searching for answers. "In a car once again chasing a boom," he tweeted, to which Aikins responded approvingly, "Midnight cowboy."
All that digging around led the reporters to an answer in under an hour. Journalist Subel Bhandari learned from another off-Twitter journalist, Hares Kakar, who spoke with police, that a rocket had landed in a house next to a narcotics department in Qasaba, Kabul, causing no casualties. As for Van Houdt, he couldn't convince his fearful driver to take him to Qasaba, but he spoke to some policemen along the way nonetheless. Dam soon signed off: "Ok, Rocket located. Twexit."