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Tsunami tragedy: World turns to the Web

Charities are using the Internet to bring in donations quickly, as bloggers bring eyewitness accounts from the disaster area

In the aftermath of the devastating South-East Asian tsunami, the Web has been a vital tool both for charities and for individuals seeking information on missing family and friends.

Many charities are accepting online donations to help fund their disaster relief efforts. This includes the Disaster Emergency Committee -- a coalition of 12 major charities -- which admits that traffic to its appeal site is so great that some people could have difficulty making online donations.

"If this is the case, you can make a credit card donation by telephone on 0870 60 60 900 or please, please try later, we need your money," urged the DEC.

Google has pulled together details of 13 charities that are accepting online donations, which it links to from its home page.

Amazon.com is letting its users donate to the American Red Cross using its 1-click payment system.

As the scale of the tragedy became apparent, major Internet news sites such as BBC Online experienced a large rise in traffic as Web users sought information. Bloggers also contributed much of the early reporting from the disaster area, posting eyewitness reports and pictures

The death toll following Sunday's earthquake now exceeds 89,000. In Thailand, where 1,500 people are known to have died and thousands are still missing, Web sites are being used to show the names of those recovering in hospital, those who have survived, and those who are known to have died. Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a Web site with the all the relevant links.

Reuters has reported that an Italian schoolboy is running a Web site to help people track down missing Italian citizens. The site, which was previously devoted to The Simpsons, has already helped to find two holidaymakers.