Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: Social Media Spreads News, Raises Relief Funds

Survivors turn to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to share their stories.

ByABC News
March 11, 2011, 4:42 PM

March 11, 2011— -- The record-setting 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan today sent millions around the globe to social media websites to spread news, share videos and donate to help victims of the quake and the tsunami in the Pacific.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Japan's mobile phones were largely silenced because of a spike in demand. For many, including American travelers and expats, Facebook and Twitter became the best link to worried family members.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for the latest on the "Disaster in the Pacific" tonight.

Dan Schallau, an American who has lived in Japan for nearly a decade, was driving in his car when the quake struck. While he and his wife are fine, he said that he was "overwhelmed" by e-mails from concerned friends and family in the U.S. A blast message on Facebook allowed him to spread the news quickly.

"Basically, I posted on Facebook, 'Thank you for your concern. I'll get back to you," he said.

Nicholas Savino, an American law student, was landing in Japan during spring break at the moment the earthquake hit. When he stepped off the plane, he found the country's phone infrastructure largely in disarray.

"I've been using the Internet to speak exclusively. The phone networks have been down," Savino said, adding that he has relied primarily on e-mail and social networking to communicate. "Luckily, the hotel has Internet."

Google even set up a "Person Finder" web app to link victims with family. More than 7,000 records were entered on the site as of this afternoon.

Thousands of Videos Shared on YouTube

Before the earth even stopped shaking in Japan, plenty of people had the presence of mind to pull out video cameras and share the scenes around them with the world.

As of this afternoon, more than 9,000 earthquake-related videos and 7,000 tsunami-related videos had been uploaded to YouTube in the hours since the disaster began, the video sharing site told ABC News.