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Google reveals power of Japanese tsunami through Streetview

Google has launched a brand new site chronicling the devastation of the earthquake and Tsunami that rocked Japan earlier this year, as seen through the lenses of its Streetview cars. The site, called “Memories for the Future”, allows users to take a before and after virtual tour of some of the worst affected areas in the country.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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The internet giant claims that the project is part of its coming good on the promise “to digitally archive the areas of Northeastern Japan affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami”.

Google claims that the Streetview component of “Memories for the Future” saw its vehicles drive “more than 44 000 kilometres through the affected regions”.

Among the possessions that were swept away or buried under piles of rubble were people’s photos and videos, “cherished images of family, friends, pets and once-in-a-lifetime events”.

As well as the Streetview images, “Memories for the Future” also acts as a digital archive to help people share the photographs and videos that survived the disaster. The company says it hopes the site will “help people rediscover lost memories of their homes and towns”.

Google also hopes that the digital archiving project will “be useful to researchers and scientists who study the effects of natural disasters”.

It also claims to believe, however, that “the imagery is a useful tool for anyone around the world who wants to better understand the extent of the damage”.

“Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations,” it says.

Google reckons that the timestamp in each image, indicating the month and year each image was taken only demonstrates further “how truly life-changing this tragedy has been for those who live there and witnessed the destruction of their homes, neighborhoods and even entire districts”.

The majority of the photos were in taken in July this year. The pictures capture 82 cities and villages in the prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Yamagata and Aomori.

Online activity spiked massively in the wake of the disaster with Twitter activity peaking at around 1 200 tweets-per-minute.

YouTube footage of both the earthquake and resultant tsunami also went viral.