Like thousands, Michael E. Nichols, an administrative pastor in Midlothian, Texas, feared the worst for his brother-in-law John when super typhoon Haiyan churned through central Philippines last Friday.
But three days later, a brief one-line message on Google Person Finder restored hope.
"I floated to Vietnam alive and well," John replied, as shown in a screen grab of the Google site posted on Nichols' twitter account.
Many more survivors are being reunited, says Google's Crisis Response center in Sydney, which maintains the site, now in its third year and battle-tested during past crises like the April Boston Marathon bombings, June floods in Uttarakhand, India and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.
"We're seeing a wide number of entries coming through with people saying 'I've heard from them'," Anthony Baxter, Google's Crisis Response Team Leader told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box" on Friday.
"It's not just about the people immediately affected - it's about their friends, families. They all want to know what's going on so people can put the updates in the Person Finder and everyone can see, 'Okay, good my auntie's okay'."