Google launches 'Person Finder' shortly after Japan earthquake

Los Angeles TimesMarch 11, 2011 

LOS ANGELES — Google Inc. launched its Person Finder technology Friday shortly after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Person Finder is an interactive database that allows users to search for missing persons online, or submit information about people who are injured or were missing.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake set off a massive tsunami, and the two disasters have left behind floods, fires and the shutdown of public transportation systems and airports.

According to Los Angeles Times reporters in Tokyo and Beijing, up to 300 bodies have been found on a beach in Sendai, on the northeast coast of Japan, with another 110 confirmed dead in other parts of the country.

The Person Finder is available as a central database for people seeking information about their loved ones or government and aid agencies looking to coordinate efforts.

Google first launched Person Finder after the Haiti earthquake and most recently deployed the tool for the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb. 22.

As if Friday, there were more than 7,200 records being tracked on Person Finder, which is available in both Japanese and English, and Google has made the tool embeddable to other websites.

Person Finder for the Japanese earthquake can be found on a Google Crisis Response website: http://www.google.co.jp/intl/en/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html.

On that landing page, people can also view maps, related news stories, YouTube videos and other resources, such as links to Japanese utilities and government agencies.

Jamie Yood, a Google spokeswoman, said Person Finder for the Japanese earthquake was online about an hour after the earthquake hit.

Person Finder is built by the Google Crisis Response team, which is made up of employees of the company's philanthropic arm, Google.org. Other Google workers can contribute, too.

The project is also open-source, and some non-Google employees have contributed to the project in the past, said Prem Ramaswami, a Google project manager who has been working on Person Finder during the Christchurch earthquake efforts.

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