Japanese are using social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Mixi as cell phone networks are jammed following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northern Japan on Friday, killing at least 300 and leaving nearly 500 missing.
Carriers were limiting voice calls on congested networks, with NTT DoCoMo restricting up to 80 percent of voice calls, especially in Tokyo and in northeast Japan, where 30-foot tsunami waves caused extensive damage. (See video below.) But service was nil or patchy throughout the country.
Carriers Softbank and Au were also affected, with Tokyo residents unable to send text messages to friends and loved ones. Friends have reported that they were able to contact family members on DoCoMo, but not others.
Twitter, Facebook, and Japanese social-media site Mixi were helping fill the communication gap though, as online networks held firm. However, Internet service was on-again, off-again in Tokyo.
Friends in Tokyo reported walking miles to get home from the Marunouchi district of the capital's downtown as subway services were suspended. Streets in the capital remained gridlocked, with highways shut down, early Saturday.
"The streets were so full of people walking, and it was so crowded it was like being in a morning rush-hour commuter train," said Toshie Niida, who works at a cable broadcaster in central Tokyo, in a Facebook chat. "It took me more than an hour to walk home." … Read more