The giants of the web are not only relaying the call for donations to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti but also setting up valuable tools to help families find loved ones.
Two key internet players are putting their considerable resources behind Haitian earthquake victims. Yahoo, via the page, Yahoo! For Good , has made available the details of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help users send donations.
Meanwhile, Google, which has already pledged over a million dollars to Haiti, has created Google Crisis Response, an array of tools that enables its users to search for news of loved ones.
With Google Earth, the site offers the latest satellite imagery of Port-au-Prince, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The site also shows which buildings have been destroyed. The company is also providing free phone calls to Haiti for two weeks through its Google Voice unit.
For people seeking news about friends and family, Google, together with the US State Department has created a simple online gadget called ‘Person Finder’. With this application, users simply enters a complete or partial name of the person they are looking for. At the same time, users are also able to submit information about themselves or anyone else they have found.
The engine retrieves the requests and searches published resources on Facebook, CNN, or on NGO sites such as the International Red Cross. This information is then entered into a database using a special format: the PFIF (People Finder Interchange Format).
The engine was originally created after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York to centralise all published research in order to avoid the confusion which may arise from using multiple missing persons databases. The gadget is currently available in English, French and Creole. Notably, it was used in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana.
On Monday morning, Person Finder contained 25,700 names.
According to latest estimates, the earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan 12 has killed 70,000, injured 250,000 and made 1.5 million more homeless.
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