The Web Reacts to a Tsunami

Posted March 11th, 2011 at 2:14 pm (UTC-4)

Reporting and Responding to a Massive Earthquake & Tsunami

Friday morning’s historic 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the eastern coast of Japan, and the resulting tsunami that tore into the Japanese coastline, set the Internet into overdrive across the entire Pacific basin.

Even more than the 2004 Indian Ocean or “Boxing Day” tsunami, the first fierce waves to hit Japan Friday were heavily recorded and broadcast on video, perhaps to be expected for a nation that’s among the most wired and connected as any. Farther south, it was a different situation in Northeastern Indonesia where news was far slower and video unavailable in the early hours.

Media like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) are providing spaces for people to post and share videos, still pictures, and other first-hand reports from Japan and elsewhere.

Nearly as fast as the official tsunami warnings were issued for nations as far away as Chile, they were retransmitted via Twitter, Facebook, Mixi, and other popular Asian social networks.

On Twitter, the hashtags #japantsunami, #jpquake and #Tsunami were among the fastest growing and most used, at least according to Trendsmap.  And it’s no surprise, given the huge geographic area put at risk, that a search on Openbook shows a wide variety of people and languages reacting to the news via Facebook status updates:

Stephan Pire Réaction du Web 2.0 sur le Tsunami. Twitter est maintenant la source d’info la plus rapide et complète. Après le puissant tremblement de terre qui vient de frapper les côtes du Japon, ce vendredi matin, les réactions sur Twitter ont été immédiates et intenses Twitter réagit au tsunami.”

Shadylane Togonon sana mraming nka ligtas s tsunami…..,god help us!!!”

Lucho Pesantes …el Tsunami llegaría de norte a sur en Tumbes seria a las 6pm.”

Vishnu Dave જાપાનના ઉત્તર-પૂર્વ કાંઠા વિસ્તારોમાં આજે શક્તિશાળી ભૂકંપ આવ્યો હતો જેની તિવ્રતા રિક્ટર સ્કેલ પર 8.8 માપવામાં આવી હતી. ભૂકંપના આંચકાથી ટોક્યો શહેરની ઈમારતો કેટલીક મીનિટો માટે ધ્રૂજી હતી અને ભયનો માહોલ ફેલાઈ ગયો જાપાનમાં 8.8ની તિવ્રતાનો શક્તિશાળી ભૂકંપ, 5 અણુમથકો બંધ – 8 magnitude quake hits Japan tsunami warning”

Google was equally quick to respond, setting up one of it’s “Person Finder” applets on the web.  This one – the “2011 Japan Earthquake” – allows people to post information either about people they’re looking for, or about people they have seen and had contact with in the region, in either English or Japanese.

There’s also this mash-up Google map that compiles US NOAA estimated arrival times of the tsunami wave across the entire Pacific Ocean region.

The US State Department was also quick to respond, setting up an emergency email address – – for those in or outside Japan to email regarding friends and family.

More updates to this story will be coming soon.

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