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Tech Giants Help Track Nepal Earthquake Survivors as Communications Are Hit

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The 7.2-magnitude quake struck 50 miles north of Katmandu.

Global technology companies are helping survivors of Nepal's 7.8-magnitude quake Saturday to connect with each other, and with the outside world.

Credit: The Wall Street Journal

Global technology companies quickly responded to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday by helping connect survivors to each other and the outside world.

Soon after the quake on Saturday, Google announced it was activating its Person Finder service. First developed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the service enables users to post and search for information about missing friends and loved ones. Google also has slashed the prices for making calls to Nepal using its Google Voice service from 19 cents to 1 cent per minute. Google lost an employee to the disaster: an executive attempting to climb Mount Everest who was killed in an avalanche triggered by the quake.

Meanwhile, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature, which enables users in affected areas to select a notification that alerts their friends and family on Facebook they are alive. The feature is currently active in areas up to 500 kilometers away from the quake's epicenter.

In addition, Cyprus-based voice and messaging app Viber Media announced Sunday it had turned off billing for users in Nepal, allowing them to call landlines and mobile phones around the world for free and vice versa. However, such efforts are being somewhat hampered by Nepal's already limited Internet and mobile network access being badly impaired by the quake.

From The Wall Street Journal
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