Google, Facebook join Red Cross to find thousands missing after Nepal quake

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Nepal Aid Effort Gets Underway

NEW DELHI/LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - German development worker Caroline Siebald and her boyfriend Charles Gertler, an American glaciologist, were on a rafting trip in Nepal when the earthquake struck and initially panicked about how to let their families know they were safe.

After about 30 attempts, Gertler, 25, managed to get a phone call through to his mother in Massachusetts in the United States, and she registered them as safe on Facebook's "Safety Check". Within minutes, their friends and families saw the news.

"I had messages from my best friends in kindergarten saying 'Oh my God, I'm so glad you're alive'", Siebald, 22, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

From migrant Nepali domestic workers in India to IT professionals in Brazil, people across the globe have taken to social media sites such as Facebook and Google to look for missing relatives and pass on news of survival in Nepal.

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Nepal earthquake: relief aids & vigils
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Google, Facebook join Red Cross to find thousands missing after Nepal quake
A Buddhist monk from Kopan monastery offers a prayer for the people affected during Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years. It and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China's region of Tibet and Pakistan.(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Indians light candles on a pavement as tribute to victims of Nepal’s earthquake, in Allahabad, India, Monday, April 27, 2015. The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years.(AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Pakistani girls light candles and offer prayers for Nepalese victims of Saturday's earthquake, in Multan, Pakistan, Monday, April 27, 2015. The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years. It was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China's region of Tibet and Pakistan. (AP Photo/Asim Tanveer)
Indian women offer prayers for victims of Nepal's earthquake, at a temple in Gorkha Nagar in Jammu, India, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepal’s capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
People gather as messages and candles mark a growing memorial after a deadly earthquake in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015, in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday caused massive devastation, with more than 2,500 people killed and thousands injured in Nepal. It brought down buildings and even a monument, and set off avalanches on Mount Everest. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Hundreds of people gather in Diversity Square to light candles during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Hundreds of people gather in Diversity Square to light candles during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Mourners light candles in Diversity Square during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Hundreds of people gather in Diversity Square to light candles during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Mourners light candles in Diversity Square during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: A mourner lights a candle in Diversity Square during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Hundreds of people gather in Diversity Square to light candles during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Hundreds of people gather in Diversity Square to light candles during a vigil for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal on April 26, 2015 in the Jackson Heights section of the Queens borough of New York City. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images).
MUMBAI, INDIA - APRIL 26: Candle Light procession being taken out to seek help for victim of earthquake in Nepal by Nepali community from Thane on April 26, 2015 in Mumbai, India. Prayers organised for the peace of the demised victims of the earthquake that took place in Nepal on April 25, 2015. Thousands of people spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal, killing over 1,800 people. The magnitude 7.9 earthquake, which originated outside the capital Kathmandu, was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in more than 80 years. (Photo by Praful Gangurde/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
CHANDIGARH, INDIA - APRIL 26: Candle Light procession being taken out to seek help for victim of earthquake in Nepal by Nepalese Students, Community members and other students of Punjab University on April 26, 2015 in Chandigarh, India. Prayers organised for the peace of the demised victims of the earthquake that took place in Nepal on April 25, 2015. Thousands of people spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal, killing over 1,800 people. The magnitude 7.9 earthquake, which originated outside the capital Kathmandu, was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in more than 80 years. (Photo by Sanjeev Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA - APRIL 26: Candle Light procession being taken out to seek help for victim of earthquake in Nepal by Nepali community from Thane on April 26, 2015 in Mumbai, India. Prayers organised for the peace of the demised victims of the earthquake that took place in Nepal on April 25, 2015. Thousands of people spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal, killing over 1,800 people. The magnitude 7.9 earthquake, which originated outside the capital Kathmandu, was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in more than 80 years. (Photo by Praful Gangurde/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
CHANDIGARH, INDIA - APRIL 26: Candle Light procession being taken out to seek help for victim of earthquake in Nepal by Nepalese Students, Community members and other students of Punjab University on April 26, 2015 in Chandigarh, India. Prayers organised for the peace of the demised victims of the earthquake that took place in Nepal on April 25, 2015. Thousands of people spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal, killing over 1,800 people. The magnitude 7.9 earthquake, which originated outside the capital Kathmandu, was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in more than 80 years. (Photo by Sanjeev Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Nepalese novice Buddhist monks who live at the Tergar monastery in the Indian town of Bodhgaya on April 26, 2015 offer prayers for the victims of an earthquake in Nepal. Powerful aftershocks rocked Nepal April 26, panicking survivors of a quake that killed more than 2,300 and triggering fresh avalanches at Everest base camp, as rescuers dug through rubble in the devastated capital Kathmandu. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 26: Members of Turkish healthcare and aid organizations arrives at Nepal after a powerful earthquake in Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015. The death toll in Nepal climbed towards 2,500 on Sunday as rescuers unearthed the victims of a powerful earthquake. There have been 773 people killed in Nepals densely-populated capital Kathmandu, while the Himalayan nations central region, close to the epicenter of Saturdays 7.8-magnitude quake, has seen 1,055 deaths. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Some of the 62 members of the Dutch Urban Search and Rescue team get ready to leave with their tracker dogs for Nepal to help search for victims after the earthquake at Eindhoven Airport, on April 26, 2015. Powerful aftershocks rocked Nepal on April 26, panicking survivors of a quake that killed more than 2,300 and triggering fresh avalanches at Everest base camp, as rescuers dug through rubble in the devastated capital Kathmandu AFP PHOTO / ANP / EVERT-JAN DANIELS **NETHERLANDS OUT** (Photo credit should read Evert-Jan Daniels/AFP/Getty Images)
Some of the 62 members of the Urban Search and Rescue team get ready to leave with their tracker dogs for Nepal to help search for victims after the earthquake at Eindhoven Airport, on April 26, 2015. Powerful aftershocks rocked Nepal on April 26, panicking survivors of a quake that killed more than 2,300 and triggering fresh avalanches at Everest base camp, as rescuers dug through rubble in the devastated capital Kathmandu AFP PHOTO / ANP / EVERT-JAN DANIELS **NETHERLANDS OUT** (Photo credit should read Evert-Jan Daniels/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of a German rescue organization board a plane at the airport in Frankfurt, central Germany, Sunday, April 26, 2015, for their flight to earthquake-torn Nepal. International Search and Rescue Germany says a team of 52 relief workers including doctors, experts trained in searching for people buried under rubble and several dog squads will fly to Nepal. (Christoph Schmidt/dpa via AP)
Members of a rescue team from Japan transit at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport en route to Kathmandu, Nepal, to assist with the earthquake relief effort Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Saturday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)
Workers of the German Red Cross (DRK) prepare a load of humanitarian aid for victims of the earthquake in Nepal, in front of an aircraft at Schoenefeld airport outside Berlin Monday, April 27, 2015. The flight will carry around 60 tonnes of supplies for the victims. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool Photo via AP)
Members of India’s Second Battalion National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) stand in a queue as they leave for Kathmandu to assist in the search and rescue operation, at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose international airport in Kolkata, India, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake hit the capital, Kathmandu, on Saturday devastating the region and leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years. It and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China's region of Tibet and Pakistan. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
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In India, which has the highest population of Nepali migrants in the world, many have been frantically trying to phone home, horrified as they watch television pictures showing bodies being pulled out of the rumble of collapsed buildings.

"I don't know anything about my son who is in a village with my parents far from Kathmandu. I am calling on the phone all the time, but I can't get through. I can't eat, sleep or work," said Usha Tamang, a nanny of Nepali nationality working in Delhi.

Elsewhere in the world, others are searching for relatives and friends who were visiting the Himalayan nation during its peak tourism season.

An estimated 300,000 foreign tourists were in the country, several hundred of whom were on Mount Everest, when Saturday's 7.9 magnitude quake struck, killing more than 3,700 people.

TRACING THE MISSING

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was one of the first agencies to launch an online platform to trace the thousands of people who are missing.

The family tracing service publishes lists of names and information on people who are safe and well, hospital patients, people who are looking for relatives, sought persons or those who are dead.

Individuals can access these lists directly on the webpage to look for the names of their family members or register themselves as safe or in danger.

Facebook has also launched its Safety Check tool here for Nepal, drawing praise from Facebook members.

"It's a simple way to let family and friends know you're okay. If you're in one of the areas affected by the earthquake, you'll get a notification asking if you're safe, and whether you want to check on any of your friends," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted.

"When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe. It's moments like this that being able to connect really matters."

An IT professional in Brazil was one of many who said that the initiative had helped her trace her family.

"My father and friends are in the area and one of the first contact points we had to get some news was Facebook. This media is not always about likes and fun," the woman wrote in response to Zuckerberg's post.

"When you or someone in your family is in danger, you'll try ANY kind of contact and I'm glad Facebook helped me today. Connection is what matters."

Another application, the Google Person Finder here, first launched after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, uses SMS to allow anyone to search or update information on missing people.

On Saturday Jacqueline Brown registered Angus Brown, 46, from London, as safe. "Angus has emailed, he is in Lumboche with Martin. Both are fine, warm and have food," she said. The service is currently tracking about 5,800 people.

Telecommunications firms and tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft and T-Mobile, joined the relief effort by either waving call and text fees, facilitating donations or making donations outright.

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