Google Responds to Japan Earthquake With People Finder

Search Giant Sets Up Tools to Relay Information About What's Happening on the Ground

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The largest earthquake in Japan's recorded history hit the northeast coast of Japan on Friday afternoon, local time. The 8.9 magnitude quake pushed a massive tsunami through coastal towns, flushing away entire farmlands and cities. Though there isn't yet an accurate account of the death toll, the Associated Press reports 200 to 300 people were found dead in the northern city of Sendai.

Google responded to the event much like a traditional news organization, but by taking advantage of its best software and data. It created a set of tools and pages with information about what's happening on the ground, most of which can be found on its Google Crisis Response page, which includes emergency information about the quake and the resulting tsunami that's due to hit North and South America's west coasts.

Google Map of Japan earthquake
Google Map of Japan earthquake

The search giant also set up a People Finder page, where anyone can type in the name of people they're looking for who might have been affected by the disaster. Conversely, anyone who has information about a person can enter that data as well, though anyone can participate in the exchange of data and is thus not vetted. At current count, the database has already amassed 7,200 records. Google set up similar databases in the aftermath of the Haiti and New Zealand earthquakes.

The company's Twitter handles, @google and @googlemaps, are streaming information on the progress of the tsunami, as well as links to Google Maps data showing where it may hit.

Google's YouTube division is also collecting citizens' video accounts of the disaster on its CitizenTube channel, which shows some vivid firsthand looks at the devastating effects of the earthquake.

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