In the aftermath of the 8.9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that devastated northern Japan late Thursday, Pacific time, several companies have stepped forward to help with news and information for U.S. residents who have connections to Japan.
Several organizations have also started to collect donations and organize help to send to the stricken country.
Finding loved ones
Google has launched a person finder for people trying to track down friends and family affected by the quake. Currently about 98,600 records are being tracked, according to the website.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has also set up a website to connect people with family and friends.
The American Red Cross advises that people who are looking for U.S. citizens living or traveling in Japan should call the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or 202 647-5225.
Comcast in Washington has announced that digital cable customers can watch TV Japan, normally a pay channel, for free in the aftermath of the 8.9 earthquake that struck Friday morning and the ensuing tsunami that swept away buildings, cars and farmland. TV Japan is on Comcast channel 245. Read the Comcast blog entry here.
TV Japan is a North American television channel run by NHK, Japan's national public broadcasting organization.
If you get an error message, ComcastWA said on its Twitter feed to try turning your cable box off and then turning it back on (or unplugging from the electrical outlet and then plugging it back in).
Organizations have started to mobilize to send aid to Japan and other countries affected by the quake and the tsunamis that followed.
The American Red Cross has started to help in Japan, distributing more than 30,000 blankets to evacuees so far. According to the American Red Cross, more than 300,000 people were evacuated to in temporary centers set up in schools and public buildings before the tsunami struck, and more could be evacuated as the nuclear power plants are at risk because of earthquake damage.
Those who want to help the American and Japanes Red Cross efforts can go to www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.
GlobalGiving.org says that it is collecting money to disburse to organizations that are providing direct help to people in Japan, including International Medical Corps and Save the Children.
In Federal Way, World Vision is preparing to send staff members and supplies to Japan, the organization reported Saturday. One goal, the group said, is to help children. It also is accepting contributions to help those in Japan.
Medical Teams International, which has a Redmond office, said that it has been in touch with its partners in Japan and is willing to help.
Beware of Scams, Secretary of State Warns
Despite the great need, the Charities Division of the Office of the Secretary of State warned people to check out anyone who is asking for money.
While there are many longstanding and trusted relief organizations, con artists have taken advantage of past disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks to exploit people’s good intentions by taking money meant for victims.
“If you decide to donate money to the Japanese tsunami relief effort, you would want your money to go where it can do the most good to help victims and their families,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed said in a prepared statement. “So we encourage you to check before you give by doing your homework on the charities asking for your money. We don’t want scammers to benefit from this tragedy.”
According to the Secretary of State's Office:
Under state law, anyone who solicits charitable donations in Washington must register with the Secretary of State, and disclose how much raised money went toward an actual charitable cause. You can make sure the charity group is registered with the Office of Secretary of State by checking online. Before you write a check or charge your credit card to any charity, make sure you ask these questions:
• Is the charity or fundraiser registered with the state of Washington?
• What is the name, address and telephone number of the organization asking for the donation?
• Exactly how will the donation be used?
• What percentage of the contribution will actually be spent on the charitable purpose of the organization?
For more giving tips, visit the Secretary of State’s Charities Web site. You can also check on whether a charity or commercial fundraiser is registered by calling the Secretary of State’s toll-free Charities Information Hotline at 1-800-332-GIVE.
Information from was included in this report.