Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tsunami news you may not have heard

Sorry if you are already experiencing overload. I have distant relatives in Okinawa, which I quickly learned was minimally affected by the tsunami. However, in searching for that info online, I found these:

First, via the NY Times, some unbelievable satellite photos showing before and after of several stricken areas in NE Japan. Also, the NY Times seems to have the best coverage of the earthquake and tsunami among US media sources.

Second, here is the major Japanese online news source (in English). They have breaking news and some stories are more in-depth. From this site, it appears there will be over 10,000 souls lost in the tsunami area alone. And there is the continuing threat of meltdown at several nuclear reactors. This link was passed on from a commenter to a post about the tsunami from Just Hungry - this blog's author is from Japan, so she has relatives there.

Finally, I belong to an email listserv (this one disperses information on reference services provided via email and chat to its members). Via this listserv, I read that a Japanese librarian is asking QuestionPoint, a US (paid) service that is used by many academic and public libraries, if Japanese librarians can use QP free as a means for transmittal of basic information for the duration of the emergency, as well as help his library and the one other QP user in Japan, via librarians in the US if necessary.

Yes, libraries usually provide information for people wanting their reference questions answered, but it's obvious that in Japan, they need to know the answers to more basic questions at the moment - who in their own larger communities need help, and the scope of that.

They have a website documenting libraries in the affected areas - and I admit libraries don't come to my mind immediately when a disaster occurs, even though I've been personally involved in this type of recovery. The website has been Google-translated from Japanese into English, so it's a bit wonky. This site documents what's working - or not, damage and what needs to be done at libraries in the region. What's heartbreaking is if you click on "Miyagi", the hardest hit region - much of that is unknown, including "Damage to user personnel: Unknown"

There is this Google Crisis Response website, but QP utilizes chat interaction, which could provide communication with more information possible than tweets, as well as faster than email. So, this librarian's rationale for asking QP to help is that power supply is intermittent in Japan now, and Twitter - presently the only means of communication - is insufficient. If you've ever experienced rolling blackouts - and Hawaii has when the monopoly power company here was trying to restore service after an earthquake - you might have an idea of what this librarian, his colleagues and countrymen are going through. If this can be done, what spirit of cooperation this would show!

I am continuing to hold the victims and survivors of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami in my thoughts and hopes.

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