The search for Japan’s loved ones is on…thanks to social media


The issue

An 8.9 magnitude earthquake. Over 4164 people dead. Fears of radiation poisoning growing. 450,000 people displaced from their homes. These are the result of an earthquake that shook Japan last week.

The aid of User Generated Content

The only thing that has remained largely intact is the internet and has played a pivotal role in helping families find their loved ones since the disaster struck. It must be a horrific time for people who are desperately searching for family and friends, who have no idea of their whereabouts or even whether they are alive or dead.

The best advice is “to continue your efforts to be in contact with your loved one(s) using SMS texting and other social media (e.g., FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) that your loved one(s) may use.”

This was the advice given by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to U.S. citizens in Japan in the search for loved ones. In the message from the U.S Embassy, people were also encouraged to use the Google Person Finder, Youtube Person Finder and the Red Cross’s Family Links website to try and find people.

Less than an hour after the quake, the number of tweets coming from people in Tokyo amounted to more than 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter. Click here to see people exchanging stories about their searches and experiences.

Person Finder is often created by Google during emergencies because it allows people to leave information about their whereabouts or information about a missing person. At the time of writing, there were about 158,700 records for Japan — more than 140,000 more records than were submitted to the last such site it set up for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake in February.

The Red Cross Family Links site operates in a similar manner, publishing a list of names with contact information of people who want to make it known that they are alive and people whose relatives have indicated they are missing.

Many of these status’ allowed people to get in touch very quickly. There were 4.5 million status updates from 3.8 million users across the world on March 11 that mentioned “Japan,” “earthquake” or “tsunami.”

The latest

Fellow journalists, you may be interested to know that the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office has created an English twitter page for people around the world (and of course beneficial for journalists!) The twitter account @JPN_PMO is translating from the disaster information account @Kantei_Saigai.

Is anyone following @JPN_PMO?
By Linzi Kinghorn

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