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Web helps people locate loved ones in Japan quake

india Updated: Mar 12, 2011 12:39 IST
AFP
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Searching the internet on sites such as Google and Twitter and their local variants has become more effective in finding loved ones than sifting through wreckage following Japan's devastating tsunami.

As the floodwaters subsided Saturday, worried friends and relatives leapt onto their computers to find information about people who had not been heard from since the mighty wave crashed ashore.

Global web giant Google's person finder service had notched up over 33,000 records of people leaving messages seeking information on friends and family by 0600 GMT.

The site was updating, in English and Japanese, by the thousand every few minutes.

A random search of the common Japanese surname "Sato" brought up hundreds of results, many of them for people living in Sendai -- the city that faced the brunt of the thunderous body of rolling water.

Gunduzhan posted a message seeking Aki Sato, a dentist from Sendai who studied at Ohu University in Koriyama. A photo of the pretty young woman was also posted on the site.

"Looking for Aki Sato," the post read. "Last heard from after earthquake but before tsunami."

Another post seeking Fatima Sato had some good news -- "Mom is ok. She is on her way home."

The international and Japanese Red Cross also set up a similar site.

People both in Japan and abroad can register names on the website or consult the list, while those in Japan can inform their family and friends that they are safe and provide contact details.

"Thousands of people in Japan and elsewhere have lost contact with family members because of the earthquake and tsunami," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Friday.

And micro-blogging site Twitter was updating every second with messages of good will, of condolences and offering aid.

A service was being shared on Twitter allowing people the chance to donate to the Red Cross via text message, the donation being added to phone bills.

Some tweets were posted by international celebrities such as the American singer Lady Gaga, who launched a bracelet to support the relief effort.

She asked her legion of fans -- whom she calls "Little Monsters" -- to buy a bracelet on her website saying, "We Pray for Japan," for donations of $5 or more. All proceeds will go to relief efforts, she said.

Other pop stars offered condolences. R&B icon Alicia Keys wrote on her Twitter account: "My heart breaks for Japan."

And Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber called Japan "one of my favorite places on Earth."

"It's an incredible culture with amazing people. My prayers go out to them. We all need to help," Bieber wrote on Twitter.

On social media giant Facebook, the Japan Tsunami 2011 page had over 2,300 people saying they "like" the page and scores of messages plus links to some of the astonishing videos of when the tsunami hit.

But US computer security authorities warned that online scammers may seek to exploit the quake.

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) told computer users to be wary of "potential email scams, fake antivirus and phishing attacks regarding the Japan earthquake and the tsunami disasters."

"Email scams may contain links or attachments which may direct users to phishing or malware-laden websites," US-CERT said in a statement.

"Fake antivirus attacks may come in the form of pop-ups which flash security warnings and ask the user for credit card information," it said.

"Phishing emails and websites requesting donations for bogus charitable organisations commonly appear after these types of natural disasters," US-CERT added.

Phishing refers to attempts to steal user names, passwords and other personal information from unsuspecting victims, mostly through email or instant messages.

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