How to use the Web to help Japan quake victims, track damage from afar

Friday at about 2:45pm local time (12:45am EST) Japan experienced a devastating earthquake, which was given a preliminary register of 8.9 on the Richter scale of magnitude, higher than any in this zone since the invention of the Richter Scale.

According to the US Geological Society, the location of this quake, known as the Japan Trench subduction zone, has had 9 events registering magnitude 7 or higher since 1973. The only one to approach this magnitude took place in December 1994, and was ranked as a 7.8.

For those of us who are stuck to the Web on the other side of the world, there are several vehicles that allow us to follow along, participate, and help out.

Google.org has posted its Crisis Response site, which it first started using with Gulf Coast Hurricaine Katrina in 2005. Since that time, it has responded to more than a dozen natural disasters with alarms and warnings, disaster bulletin boards, transportation information, blackout information, maps, news feeds, and realtime updates.

One of the more remarkable tools Google has posted is the Person Finder, which we've embedded below. This tool lets disaster survivors connect with concerned family and friends via written message, and Google also has emergency numbers to leave or listen to audio messages.

src="http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/?

small=yes&lang=en"
width=400 height=300 frameborder=0
style="border: dashed 2px #77c">

Yahoo has set up disaster.yahoo.co.jp, which includes a list of when and where tsunamis are expected as a result of the quakes and aftershocks.

Follow Along

Because Japan is a highly connected nation (10th place in the world in Nokia-Siemens Networks "Connectiviy Scorecard 2010") there are plenty of free, live webcams and CCTV cameras that anyone can use to observe the situation in coastal areas. We've included a list of some webcams below that are situated in some tsunami-prone areas.

Hokkaido

Honshu

Donate

To donate to relief efforts, the Red Cross Donations portal not only accepts credit cards, but Amazon Payments as well.

Individuals looking to donate funds are warned to only give their money to charities and projects of good repute. Scammers used the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 as a springboard for setting up fake charities and aid groups, and some expect the same to occur following this disaster.

The Center for International Disaster Information advises potential donors: To make sure any requests for donations actually come from a charity, and to contact the charity directly if there's any doubt; to ask for a charity collector's identification and the charity's name and registration number; and to check if a charity is listed on any public register of charities.

Certain organizations have set up "text to donate" systems, where a single text message adds a charge onto the user's mobile phone bill as a donation to recovery efforts. Mobile operators Sprint and Verizon Wireless announced on Friday that they would waive text message fees for its customers who send mobile donations to some of these organizations, including:

American Red Cross: Text "REDCROSS to "90999" to donate $10
Convoy of Hope, Inc.: Text "TSUNAMI to "50555" to donate $10
World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals: Text "WAVE" to 50555 to donate $10
The Salvation Army: Text "JAPAN" or "QUAKE" to 80888 to donate $10
World Vision Inc.: Text "4JAPAN" or "4TSUNAMI" to 20222 to donate $10.

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