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Google digitizing lists of Japan shelter dwellers

Google hopes people will e-mail photos showing who's in emergency shelters so it can help Japanese find each other after the earthquake and tsunami. Also: volunteer translators needed.

Google Maps is showing rolling-blackout information for Japan. This view shows the area around Tokyo.
Google Maps is showing rolling-blackout information for Japan after the devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunamis. This view shows the area around Tokyo.
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Expanding its efforts to help restore contact among people separated by the Japanese disasters, Google said today it's creating computerized versions of lists of people at emergency shelters.

"To help the many people in shelters get word of their whereabouts to loved ones, we're...asking people in shelters to take photos of the handwritten lists of names of current residents and e-mail them to us," Google said in a blog post. Google scans the data to add to its Japan person-finder site, "but it's a big job that can't be done automatically by computers alone, so we welcome volunteers with Japanese language skills who want to help out.

The images of shelter lists are posted to a Picasa album. Those with images can e-mail them to

The country is grappling with death and housing dislocation on a massive scale. Japanese state broadcaster National police said 5,693 have been confirmed dead, and 9,506 people remain unaccounted for, NHK reported Thursday.

In another change, Google's crisis response page for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami now works better when used with mobile phones, in particular lower-end phones that are very common. Google also has made it possible to search by telephone number at its person-finder site.

It's provided Google Maps showing rolling blackout locations. And it's continuing to publish updated satellite photos of Japan on Google Maps.