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The earthquake which struck Nepal over the weekend measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and the devastation it wrought has been immense. More than 3 600 people are now known to have died in Nepal, India and China. A further 6 500 have been injured and 200 climbers have had to be evacuated from Mount Everest. Perhaps the most remarkable thing however is how quickly we’ve received this information and how rapid the response of some of some of the world’s biggest tech companies has been.
Experiencing disasters in (near) real-time
It’s not all that long ago that it would have taken the world days to learn of the damage caused by the Nepal quake. Everest’s popularity as the highest peak on the planet would probably have seen communication coming from it to the outside world, but verifying facts and counting the total dead would have been an arduous process.
On Saturday, tweets about the quake started emerging almost immediately as people took to social media both to let their loved ones know they were safe and to share images of the devastation.
Truly awful sight. Kathmandu's Darbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in ruins after today's earthquake. pic.twitter.com/AoAtbGhmPq
— Raghu Karnad (@rkarnad) April 25, 2015
— Elia Saikaly (@EliaSaikaly) April 26, 2015
— Adrian Ballinger (@alpenglowexp) April 26, 2015
things quiet now but large areas of base camp look like after a nuclear blast. great desolation. high uncertainty among people.
— Alex Gavan (@AlexGAVAN) April 26, 2015
Some teams have already left the place, their camps being completely distroyed. Some people are even sleeping with helmets and boots on.
— Alex Gavan (@AlexGAVAN) April 26, 2015
Just a day after the quake meanwhile German climber Jost Kobusch posted a video to YouTube showing a resulting avalanche hitting Everest Base Camp:
The video has been watched close to 5-million times.
Lending a hand
It wasn’t just individuals using social media as a conduit for information though. The world’s tech companies are now well-versed when it comes to lending their products to disaster relief efforts.
On the day of the quake for instance Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the social network to remind people about Safety Check. The tool, which it launched last year, allows people to let friends and family know they’re safe, check on others in the affected area, and mark friends as safe.
Google has its own similar tool for managing information during disasters. It confirmed it would also be updating its satellite imagery to aid in rescue and recovery efforts and had earmarked US$1-million to the response with a gift-matching service set to follow in the coming days.
While Apple doesn’t have quite the same user information capabilities as Google and Facebook, it is pointing users to a donation link for the American Red Cross.
Losing a pioneer
In the midst of the wide-scale devastation caused by the Nepal quake, it’s also worth noting that the US tech community is feeling a personal sense of loss in its aftermath.
Among those who died as a result of the quake was Google executive Dan Fredinburg.
Fredinburg headed up privacy for the internet giant’s highly secretive Google X division and died as a result of injuries sustained during the avalanche on Everest.
In his spare time, Fredinburg founded Google Adventure, a company team that took Street View to exotic locations such as The Great Barrier Reef and the summit of Everest.
His death was confirmed on Instagram by his sister Megan on Instagram:
This is Dans little sister Megan. I regret to inform all who loved him that during the avalanche on Everest early this morning our Dan suffered from a major head injury and didn't make it. We appreciate all of the love that has been sent our way thus far and know his soul and his spirit will live on in so many of us. All our love and thanks to those who shared this life with our favorite hilarious strong willed man. He was and is everything to us. Thank you.
The quake is the most powerful in Nepal’s history and casualty numbers are expected to rise as rescuers reach remote villages.