World — 18 March 2011

Just like the rest of the world, Google says they have been transfixed by the images and news coming out of the northeastern part of Japan over the past six days.

Googlers in Japan and elsewhere around the world have been working around the clock to try and help improve the flow of information. Here are some of the recent developments we’ve been working on:

Centralized information
Our Crisis Response page—now in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean—organizes all of Google’s efforts, with links to valuable resources such as emergency hotlines, Person Finder, blackout schedules, maps and links to relief organizations receiving donations. Ninety-three percentof mobile users in Japan don’t have top-of-the-line smartphones, so we’ve recently optimized this Crisis Response page to make it more readable for a wider range of devices.

You can also access that version by scanning this QR code with your smartphone:

 

New, improved Google Crisis-Reponse Page

 

Person Finder
Within the first two hours of the earthquake, Google launched Person Finder so people can enter the names of those they’re looking for or have found. You can now also search by entering mobile phone numbers to see if they match any listings. And as with the Crisis Response page, Person Finder has also been optimized for those without smartphones. There are currently more than 250,000 records in the database (including names shared with us by NHK, the national broadcaster in Japan) and we’ve heard several reports of people who have found their loved ones safe.
To help the many people in shelters get word of their whereabouts to loved ones, we’re also asking people in shelters to take photos of the handwritten lists of names of current residents and email them to us. Those photos are automatically uploaded to a public Picasa Web Album. We use scanning technology to help us manually add these names to Person Finder; but it’s a big job that can’t be done automatically by computers alone, so we welcome volunteers with Japanese language skills who want to help out.

Satellite images
We’re also working with our satellite partners GeoEye and DigitalGlobe to provide frequent updates to our imagery of the hardest-hit areas to first responders as well as the general public. You can view this imagery in this Google Earth KML, browse it online through Google Maps or look through our Picasa album of before-and-after images of such places as Minamisanriku and Kesennuma.

Mapping
You can follow developments on the ground by looking at several maps that track changing developments. We’ve mapped rolling blackoutsfor areas that are affected by power outages. With data given to us by Honda, you can now see which roads have been recently passable on this map or this user-made Google Earth mashup with new satellite imagery. We’re also constantly updating a master map (in Japanese andEnglish) with other data such as epicenter locations and evacuation shelters. And with information from the newspaper Mainichi, we’ve published a partial list of shelters.

Translation
Use Google Translate for Japanese and 56 other languages. You can paste in any text, or enter the address of any web page for automatic translation. We also just released an early experimental version of Google Translate for Android to help non-Japanese speakers in affected areas.

Donations
Visit our Crisis Response resource page to find opportunities to donate. When you donate to Japan relief efforts through Google Checkout, we absorb processing fees—so 100% of your money goes to the organizations. Google has also donated $250,000 to help the people of Japan recover.

To keep up with the latest developments on our efforts in Japan, follow @googlejapan (tweets are mostly in Japanese) or @earthoutreach(for our mapping and imagery efforts) on Twitter.

Credit: Nobu Makida, Product Manager, on behalf of the Google Japan and international Crisis Response teams.

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About Author

David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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