Google has been putting English warnings of tsuanmi alerts across all of its search engines, after the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan this morning.
The warning reads: “Tsunami Alert for New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, and others. Waves expected over the next few hours, caused by 8.9 earthquake in Japan.”
However, at present, the alert is only provided in English.
For example, if you go to Google Indonesia, one of the countries under Tsunami alert, there is no warning unless you select English as default.
A similar situation exists for Google Philippines.
Even still, fair play to Google for doing what it can to provide a tsunami warning at short notice to the widest possible number of people, especially considering the limitations of getting local translations done at very short notice.
However, the changes to the Google website properties seem to have caused problems with Google.com – or at the very least, links to it.
The situation arises when you click on the link to Go to Google.com on the bottom right of any of Google’s international search portals.
The link should go to http://www.google.com/ncr – where the /ncr variable means Google international with no country-specific bias – required as Google.com itself is normally geotargeted to the USA.
However, instead, the link redirects to http://www.google.com/ig?hl=en – a logging out page for iGoogle.
Attempts to reach Google.com by editing the address bar in any browser results in the same iGoogle logout page.
A header checker suggests there should be no issues with either google.com or google.com/ncr, so it’s possible that it may be a cookies issue relating to the redirect.
Either way, it looks like Google’s attempt to warn people in countries that may soon be affected by a tsunami may turn out to be a noble sacrifice, even if only temporary.
By the time the bug is fixed, hopefully we’ll find out that the countries warned suffer little damage or loss of life.
Not least because of lessons hopefully learned after the horrific 2004 tsunami also across the Pacific basin, which resulted in more than 220,000 deaths.