The 8.9 earthquake that hit Japan early today, followed by the tsunami, left the country in a massive state of disarray - one that Google jumped in to help immediately. The search company quickly deployed a person finder site where people could look for or report information on people in the area.
Google also set up reference maps, added an area in CitizenTube for videos, and a Crisis Response page to collect information and provide a place where people could look up various information.
The Person Finder was done in multiple languages and split in to two areas - search for people and provide information on people. There were 17500 records added so far.
The Crisis Response page lists Emergency numbers, sites to report and find information about the disaster and transportation information and black out updates.
Google Trends and Insights to Search obviously have been heavily influenced by the events today.
The hot topics related to the event include coolant as there is now problems with a nuclear power plant 170 miles north of Tokyo The earthquake in New Zealand earlier this month is also in the mix.
The disaster has received international attention and the collection of information by Google shows how an information center with more than 140 characters per post and the ability to aggregate numerous sources quickly can be very helpful in these types of emergencies. In Papua New Guineau the local cell phone service showed a different way modern technology helps in these situations. The company sent out emergency text messages to all of its subscribers and helped 300,000 people to be notified of the need to evacuate to higher ground.
Google did have some problems with getting the message out, according to TechWatch UK.
Apart from translation issues, TechWatch noted "Even still, fair play to Google for doing what it can to provide a tsunami warning at short notice to the widest possible number of people, especially considering the limitations of getting local translations done at very short notice.
However, the changes to the Google website properties seem to have caused problems with Google.com - or at the very least, links to it. The situation arises when you click on the link to Go to Google.com on the bottom right of any of Google's international search portals.
The link should go to http://www.google.com/ncr - where the /ncr variable means Google international with no country-specific bias - required as Google.com itself is normally geotargeted to the USA. However, instead, the link redirects to http://www.google.com/ig?hl=en - a logging out page for iGoogle.... Either way, it looks like Google's attempt to warn people in countries that may soon be affected by a tsunami may turn out to be a noble sacrifice, even if only temporary".
There have been conversations about the ability of the web to help in these type of situations - perhaps now there will be more attention paid to getting things in place to react even quicker.
Good job Google.