Following the 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami off the coast of Japan, social network sites became a go-to source for on-the-ground news.
Twitter proved to be enormously popular. In fact, at times the popular microblogging site was, in its words, "over capacity." When Twitter was still up and running in the quake's immediate wake, an AP writer's Twitter stream was followed especially closely. Tomoko A. Hosaka, a reporter in Japan, updated her feed, writing, "We're on the 7th floor of the Kyodo building. It's still shaking."
Reddit, another popular social media service, hosted a series of updates from a teacher trapped in his office during the earthquake and aftershocks. He wrote: "The kids were evacuated and asked to sit down in the middle of the field, which they did - no casualties, no problems at all. I noticed that the kids were having fun and it was us grownups who were scared s#@*less. Parents started arriving, and all the while we are still feeling strong aftershocks. Today i saw more parents crying that (sic) kids."
CBS Chicago covered the story of a Chicago resident who found herself in the middle of the chaos in Tokyo. "She was on an elevated train heading to the airport when the quake struck. During an interview with CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker, more tremors hit. "It's shaking again. We have another earthquake right now," Maya Frommer said. "It's just shaking again, the same as it was five minutes ago. It goes side-to-side, and everything that's kind of hanging, you can hear it moving." Frommer summed things up by saying, "It's been a really nerve-wracking day."
The New York Times hosts a message board for first-hand accounts. One person wrote, "These rate easily among the scariest moments in my life." Another posted: "that was absolutely terrifying here in Yokohama. Very, very strong and apparently the epicenter was 200 miles to the north. Lots of aftershocks, during one, I witnessed a 10 story building swaying an unbelievable amount." And, another person posted a photo that speaks volumes.
Twitpic is also full of photos of the destruction. A picture of a giant crack in the earth has already drawn hundreds of comments. Another popular image shows people calmly sitting on the ground at Tokyo Disneyland. There are also hundreds of additional photos--including this one of a couple clinging to each other while parts of a ceiling collapse and another photo of the destruction taken from inside a Tokyo airport.
The United States embassy in Tokyo has its own Twitter feed (though, curiously, it has only 42 followers at the moment). One update suggests that anyone unable to reach friends or loved ones in Japan can email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
People who wish to donate $10 to the rescue efforts can text "Redcross" to 90999.