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Twitter-sourced '#quakebook' created in one week for Japan relief

The massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit northern Japan on March 11 was followed by a tsunami—scientists now believe it was six consecutive tsunamis, the largest of which was nearly 40 feet high—that devastated the coast up to several miles inland, killing thousands and destroying everything in its path.

Three weeks later, more than 11,000 residents of the Tohoku region are confirmed dead, another 17,000 are missing, and an estimated 250,000 people are living in emergency shelters in difficult conditions at the tail end of a harsh winter.

Further south, the tsunami did major damage at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, and as a result, residents of the Tokyo area are enduring power shortages and rolling blackouts. For the most part, however, Japanese outside the hardest hit northern region have been able to live relatively normal lives since the disaster hit.

The biggest frustration for many has been an inability to do much to help the earthquake and tsunami victims. With infrastructure badly damaged, the Japanese government has urged citizens not to try to enter the affected areas, and relief work so far has been conducted mainly by Japanese and U.S. troops, along with a handful of major relief organizations.

One Tokyo area resident, however, decided he could help by putting to use his skills to raise awareness globally of the victims’ plight, and to raise funds to relieve their suffering.

The former journalist, a Briton who blogs under the pseudonym Our Man in Abiko, conceived of "2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake," known on Twitter as “#quakebook”, as a way of sharing the emotions and experiences of people in the thick of the disaster and its aftermath.

In just over a week, a group of professional and citizen journalists, connected only by Twitter and led by Our Man in Abiko, edited and published "2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake" for the purpose of raising money for Japanese Red Cross Society earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

Contributions to the book—essays, artwork and photographs—were solicited via Twitter, and poured in from writers, artists, and photographers all over Japan, as well as elsewhere in Asia and North America and Europe, with 74 of the book’s final 87 submissions received within 15 hours of the project’s launch.

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In addition to narratives by the journalists and people who braved the disaster, it contains writing created specifically for the book by authors William Gibson, Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein.

“The primary goal,” Our Man in Abiko says, “is to raise awareness, and in doing so raise money to donate to the Japanese Red Cross Society to help the thousands of homeless, hungry and cold survivors of the earthquake and tsunami.”

The collection reflects the fear and confusion caused by Japan’s unprecedented disaster. “But #quakebook isn’t all gloom and doom,” says Our Man in Abiko. “By the time you finish reading it, you’ll have a sense of hope, and even optimism.”

Within the next few days, #quakebook will be available as a digital download in a variety of formats; hardbound editions will become available in the coming weeks. For updates, visit the #quakebook blog, Twitter account, or Facebook page.

TucsonSentinel.com cartoonist and Tokyo area resident Roberto De Vido has written about the Japan earthquake and tsunami and is a member of the team coordinating the release of #quakebook.

Roberto De Vido writes cartoons and comics about politics, sports (and life) from a small fishing and farming village an hour southwest of Tokyo.

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“The primary goal is to raise awareness, and in doing so raise money to donate to the Japanese Red Cross Society.”

— Japan resident blogger Our Man in Abiko