March 11, 2011 at 9:13 AM ET
An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan on Friday and while authorities are still attempting to assess the extent of the destruction it caused, people are desperately trying to reach loved ones in areas affected by the natural disaster. Google is trying to help.
The Google Person Finder tool is a simple-to-use website which was dreamt up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It allows individuals to share and gather information about those missing after this disaster.
As with previous versions of the tool, all someone needs to do is enter as much of a person's name as he or she knows and Google will provide any related information — including last known location, physical descriptions, last reported status and messages left by those searching for the individual.
Those seeking to add information to the database will need to provide the full name of the individual they've got information about as well as their own names and e-mail addresses.
In the few hours since the Japan earthquake, over 5,500 records have been added to the database and we suspect that the number will increase as people get to safe locations and begin seeking information about their dear ones.
We suggest that you add to the Google Person Finder records if you have any valid information on the whereabouts or status of any individual thought to be missing in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake.