When Mobile Fails, How to Locate Missing Friends in Christchurch
CREDIT: Google Person Finder: Christchurch
In the wake of the devastating 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand, on Tuesday, Google has launched a site to help locate missing friends and family members. Person Finder Christchurch is currently tracking 9,000 people. With limited mobile service available in the region, this online resource can provide information without overloading mobile communications.
During the first night, 120 survivors were rescued from the wreckage, but 75 have been confirmed dead, thousands injured and hundreds are still missing, according to local news reports. Up to 80 percent of the local population is without water. The Government has declared a national state of emergency, the first in New Zealand's history.
Person Finder was first created in partnership with the U.S. Department of State following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010. Pages for locating victims of the Chile and China earthquakes were also made following those disasters in February and April of last year.
The page for the Christchurch Earthquake includes the Person Finder, as well as a map of the destruction. Officials have urged people to limit their cell phone use so rescue workers can use what little bandwidth is available.
How to use Person Finder
If you're looking for someone, choose that option and type in the missing person's name. If that person has been entered in the database by someone else, results will appear.
Alternately, if you have information about someone affected by the earthquake, choose "I have information about someone." A form will appear where you can enter details including home address, description of the person, and whether or not you have talked with this person following the disaster. Most important, you may provide information about the status of the missing person, which could be helpful to others seeking the same person.
For those with their own websites, the Person Finder may be embedded in sites to extend the reach of the service.
Other ways to locate victims
Google has also created crisis response pages that list emergency numbers, resources and real-time updates from Twitter and YouTube. If you have a Twitter page, post the name of the missing person and do the same on your Facebook page. Be sure to post updates and check for responses. Both vehicles are quick ways to get the word out towide networks of friends.
A group of volunteers called CrisisCampNZ has set up a web page with useful updates for locals along with Google's Person Finder. People with information can submit it via Email, Twitter, SMS text. The group has also established a mobile site at http://eq.org.nz. Android and iPhone apps are also available: "Ushahidi" and enter http://eq.org.nz/ as the URL.
Cell phone service has been restored west of central Christchurch, but officials have asked people in the area to use their mobile phones only for emergencies.
"We also ask that customers limit mobile data usage, like Facebook, Twitter, video/picture messaging and email, as this puts strain on the network and may hamper rescue efforts," a Vodaphone manager in the area, told reporters.
Mobile cell sites are being brought into the region to boost mobile coverage.