Google, Local Platforms Respond to Japan's 8.9 Earthquake Crisis

An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 hit Japan today, resulting in tsunami warnings for 20 countries, as well as California and Hawaii. Crisis mappers wasted no time responding: In under 2.5 hours Google launched its person finder application, which was also used when New Zealand's 6.3 quake struck last month, and a local developer in Tokyo, Shu Sigashi, a member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation in Japan, quickly put up a localized Ushahidi crisis platform

Crisis mapping's reach only goes as far as it is utilized, so the key now is getting the word out that online tools are available to help report the missing. Google's person finder app is already rapidly increasing in usage. Within a couple hours 2,000 reports had been logged.

If you type in the name, "Yoshi," in Google's app, results come up that indicate whether people with that name have been reported as alive or missing. 

Hawaii's Pacific Disaster Center has updated tsunami warnings and an interactive map with information on the risks present on each island. 

The UN satellite monitoring group that teamed up with Google and George Clooney in Sudan could also be activated at the request of the Japanese government at any moment. 

"We're on standby basically," UNOSAT's Lars Bromley tells Fast Company. "The Japanese have a very good disaster satellite monitoring program run out of their space agency (JAXA). We'll assist if they request it."

Update: UNICEF and Japan's Earth Observation Research Center  have asked UNOSAT to activate its satellites and provide basic mapping products--elevation, wave height, potential damage areas, and more. UNOSAT will post results to its website as information becomes available.

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Read more coverage of the Japan earthquake.

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