Disaster relief

Nepal earthquake 2015

Facebook, Microsoft and other tech firms launch tools to help Nepal earthquake survivors

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 7:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 8:00pm

A number of major US technology companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, have launched schemes to help survivors of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday.

From Tuesday afternoon Hong Kong time, Facebook users began seeing a message at the top of their news feeds encouraging them to donate to the International Medical Corps organisation, which has emergency response teams delivering medical care and medicine to the hardest hit regions. In a statement, Facebook said it would match every dollar donated up to US$2 million.

As well as encouraging users around the world to donate, Facebook also enabled its "Safety Check" feature for people on the ground in Nepal, as well as areas in Bangladesh, India and Bhutan hit by aftershocks. The tool, launched in October 2014, allows users to broadcast to their friend list that they are safe and unharmed.

Facebook was not the only firm helping those in the affected areas connect with relatives. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has begun assembling a database of names of those in the earthquake zone. The tool enables people to list people as missing, as well as allowing those in the areas to mark themselves as alive. As of Monday afternoon, 1,385 people had been listed as missing, while 241 had reported themselves as being unharmed.

"Often before someone wants a drink of water, something to eat, or a blanket to sleep on, they want to know: 'Where is my husband? Where is my child? Where is my mother?' That's why efforts to restore family links are so important," Anna Nelson, an ICRC spokeswoman, told the New York Times.

Google's Person Finder also offers similar functionality, enabling users to list someone as missing, dead, or alive and well. As of Tuesday afternoon, the user-generated database contained almost 7,000 records. Those without internet access can also search the database via text message.

To enable those who know their relatives are safe to contact them, Microsoft has made Skype calls in and out of Nepal free to landlines and mobile phones. The move is part of a US$1 million donation by the company of money, technology and services to assist survivors of the earthquake, it said in a statement.

For its part, Apple is encouraging users of iTunes to donate to the American Red Cross. The appeal allows donations from US$5-200, with 100 per cent of the proceeds being passed to the aid organisation.

Nepalese officials said on Tuesday that the final death toll for the disaster could rise to as high as 10,000 people.

How to help

Hong Kong Red Cross "Nepal Earthquake 2015" operation
HSBC : 500-334149-010/ Hang Seng bank account: 267-175123-009/ Bank of China bank account: 012-806-00034033

Oxfam's Nepal Earthquake Emergency Response
HSBC: 001-6-331860/ Bank of China: 012-874-0-010515-7/ Hang Seng Bank: 284-401080-003

Unicef "Donation for Nepal Earthquake"
HSBC: 567-354014-005/ Bank of China: 012-875-0-021868-3/ Wing Lung Bank: 020-601-003-7634-8/ Bank of East Asia: 015-260-81-012100

World Vision "Nepal Earthquake Relief"
HSBC: 018-377077-003/ Hang Seng Bank: 286-364385-005/ Bank of China: 012-883-0-002136-6