Google ‘Person Finder’ tool deployed after major South Asian earthquake

Google deployed its Person Finder tool within hours of the earthquake hitting Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, allowing people to upload or request information about their loved ones

Google has launched its Person Finder tool for the second time this year, after a massive earthquake hit north-east Afghanistan this morning, with tremors reported in India and Pakistan.

The 7.5-magnitute earthquake is reported to have killed at least 180 people across south Asia and injured hundreds of others in the region.

In Afghanistan’s Takhar province, west of Badakahshan, at least 12 students at a girls’ school were killed in a stampede as they tried to get out of the shaking buildings.

Now Google has launched its Person Finder tool to help people determine whether those who may have been in the area at the time of the earthquake are safe.

Person Finder is a web application that allows individuals to post and search for the status of relatives or friends affected by a disaster. The program also lets press agencies, non-governmental agencies and others contribute to the database and receive updates.

Google told the Wall Street Journal it is allowing users to feed information in Urdu, the official language in Pakistan, where tremors have killed at least 145 people, and is working on versions in Pashto and Dari for Afghan users.

The tool has become a regular feature of recent disasters. Google engineers first launched Person Finder in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed more than 100,000 people.

Since then it has popped up at a string of major emergencies, from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

The tool was last deployed in May, following the 7.8-magnitude eathquake that devastated Nepal, flattening buildings and killing 730 people. More than 7,000 people reportedly posted information about missing friends and loved ones in the aftermath of that disaster.

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