ISLAMABAD: Google Inc. launched its Person Finder service for the second time this year, after today’s earthquake at Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing scores of people and injuring hundreds of others in the region.
Google said the service, which acts as an online directory to help trace loved ones caught up in disasters, was launched within three hours of the quake. The service was created in response to a devastating 2010 quake in Haiti, and subsequently rolled out in over 75 languages as disaster struck from Chile to Japan to Nepal over the years. On Monday, Google said it was allowing users to feed information in Urdu, the official language in Pakistan, where temblors injured more than 400 people, and working on versions in Pashto and Dari for Afghani users.
The feature was most recently activated just a few months ago, also in South Asia, after a powerful earthquake hit Nepal this in May. Google said more than 7,000 people had posted information about missing friends and loved ones in the aftermath of that disaster, which killed more than 8,000 people. Google’s People Finder was also used to track friends and family in Japan, hours after an 8.9 earthquake magnitude one of the world’s strongest in the past century — ground life to a halt there in 2011. The search engine said over 600,000 entries were made as the calamity reverberated across the globe.
Other technology companies have led similar initiatives. Facebook Inc. activated Safety Check after a series of powerful quakes in Nepal this year –the feature lets friends on the social networking site know you’re OK. A spokesman for Facebook in India didn’t immediately respond to queries about Safety Check Monday – a service the company said was used by millions after disaster struck in the Himalayan nation.
While tech companies many also face the additional challenge of operating in countries where Internet access is spotty and cellphone connectivity poor. Monday’s quake, for example, damaged power grids and jammed telephone networks in areas as far as northern India