Services & Software

Google extends helping hand to Philippines typhoon survivors

Creating a Person Finder and Relief Map, the Web giant looks to help people find loved ones, along with food and shelter, in the aftermath of the devastating natural disaster.

Google's Typhoon Yolanda Relief Map.
Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

The most powerful typhoon ever recorded slammed into the Philippines four days ago, leaving mind-boggling destruction in its wake. Not only were homes, city centers, and farms crushed, but also tens of thousands of people are missing and presumed dead, according to The New York Times.

In an effort to help people find loved ones, along with much needed food, shelter, and water, Google launched several tools on its Typhoon Yolanda Crisis Page on Monday (the typhoon is also referred to as Typhoon Haiyan). The idea is to help survivors and emergency responders gather and relay information in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

Among the tools is a Google Person Finder, which is an app that lets people post and search for the status of family or friends who were on the ground when the typhoon hit. People can click on "I'm Looking for Someone" and type in the person's name; or they can click "I have information about someone" and type in any names or details. Google also made the Person Finder available on mobile phones by letting people text message the word "search" and the missing person's name.

"As the number of names and records build, the tool will hopefully make it easier for those who are safe to pass on their news to anyone worried about them," Google Southeast Asia's outreach program manager Aileen Apolo wrote in a blog post.

Another tool is Google's Typhoon Yolanda Relief Map. This extensive map shows the hardest hit areas of the disaster zone, along with giving updates on shelters, hospitals, police stations, and more.

Google is known for creating crisis relief tools after natural disasters, like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and hurricanes. It made interactive maps for both Hurricane Isaac, which hit the southern US in August 2012, and for Superstorm Sandy, which struck the East Coast in October 2012. Google also built crisis tools for Japan after the earthquake and tsunami hit in March 2011 and for Chile after its massive earthquake in February 2010.

Google made its Typhoon Yolanda crisis tools open to anyone to embed on their Web sites. "The more people who contribute to them, the more useful they'll be," Apolo wrote.