In the wake of the Asian tsunami, the BBC News website received tens of thousands of emails from anxious friends and relatives of people caught up in the disaster.
Many were able to trace their missing loved ones through comments and appeals that appeared on our special message boards.
Ruth Ling from London spent days searching for her friend Roger Ely who was holidaying along with 41 guests at the hotel he co-owned in Narigama Beach, Sri Lanka.
Friends and relatives have spent days searching for news
"I initially contacted the British foreign office hotline, but I could not get through for two days. By Tuesday night I was convinced they were all dead," she said.
"But I held out hope for Roger as he has nine lives. He had previously survived a train crash in the US and a fall from a second storey window."
After spending days scouring missing persons online message boards, she sent an email to the BBC News website and posted her contact details on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) website.
"I then got a phone call from a complete stranger in Lancashire saying he had seen a story in some Scottish newspapers that said my friend's party was safe in Colombo," she said.
"I later confirmed that all 41 guests, including 13 children, from the Sunbeach Hotel got to Colombo safely.
Roger Ely managed to escape from his hotel along with 41 other guests
"It was all thanks to the resourcefulness of co-owner Neil Butler and the staff of the hotel who got all the guests out and onto higher ground with only seconds to spare before the tsunami hit."
"The hotel is totally destroyed now. There's only matchwood left.
Ms Ling eventually received an email from Mr Ely on Sunday 2 January saying he was returning to his adopted home in Shanghai.
"He is severely traumatised by the whole experience, but he is alive. One of the teachers that worked with him in Shanghai was killed in Phuket."
"Once I found out my friend was okay, only then could I deal with the enormity of the whole tragic situation. I was so completely delirious that I was only concentrating on finding my friend.
"But once I found out he was safe, only then did I realise how big a tragedy the tsunami was for everyone involved."
Nicole Mattern, from Berlin, was also searching the web for news on her friends in southern Sri Lanka.
Thousands are still missing across the countries affected
"I knew the waves had hit the areas they were in but I just didn't know how much was destroyed," she said.
She posted messages on the BBC News website and a number of other message boards seeking information on her friends Ananda, who owned a surfing resort in Mirissa, and Fr Charles Hewawasam, a local priest in Matara.
A priest in the US, Fr Stuart Crevcoure of Oklahoma, had also emailed the BBC seeking information on Fr Charles.
After ringing several friends of Fr Charles in Sri Lanka and Germany, Ms Mattern found out that he was safe, and sent an email to the BBC informing Fr Crevcoure in the US.
She also received news from Ananda's nephew in Colombo that he had survived by fleeing to higher ground.
"The hotel is totally destroyed and he will need help," she said.
Ms Mattern, who works as a mental health nurse, intends to travel to the affected areas to assist those affected by the disaster to deal with "the long term effects of shock".
Safe and well
Tony Beasty, from Hull in England, sent an email to the BBC seeking news of his brother-in-law, nephew and niece, Doug, Rachele and Martin Gregg, who were in the Maldives when the huge waves struck.
Having posted a number of appeals on other sites, he received an email from a volunteer in the Maldives who said he would help him trace his relatives.
After a flurry of emails between the two men, the volunteer's brother, who worked for the local police, accessed the air passenger lists for the Maldives and established that Mr Beasty's relatives had flown out the night before.
The next communication Mr Beasty received was when his niece rang to say they were home.
"I am pleased to tell you that they are all now home safe and well," he said.
Megan King from Prague in the Czech Republic appealed for information on her friends Dan Noll and Audrey Scott who were travelling in Thailand.
Shortly after she sent her email into the BBC she received an email from her friends telling her they had not travelled south as planned and were in Bangkok.
Her appeal did make national news, however, with Czech daily newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes mentioning her plea on the BBC's message boards.
Did you post a message looking for missing friends or relatives on the BBC News website or other missing persons sites? If so, did it help you to find out information or make contact with your loved ones?
Thank you BBC for your website, I am pleased to say my cousin's friend Martin Higgins of Romford is alive! May I take this opportunity to give my condolences for those who have lost their loved ones.
Jackie, London, UK
The Lafermes - Ian, Sue and Anthony from Patong, Thailand, phoned yesterday. They are all safe and sound, working like mad, clearing out all the mud in their house, assessing damages getting a hand from a friend who arrived from Singapore. Still no electricity. They are alive counting their blessings. Thank you BBC for your great help and assistance.
Yvonne Dettwyler, Bad Saeckingen, Germany
I posted message after the disaster and scoured websites and news information about friends of mine Seehan D'Abeyesinhe and his wife Rita, who were to have returned home to Sri Lanka for Christmas. Managed to find out over weekend, they had hold ups in the UK and postponed their trip. They are safe and well - Thankfully! Spoke to them Friday 7th January and they told me they are going out to check on their family although they have been told all ok and are taking medical supplies and clothing and money to the local area near them which was affected. So instead of holiday they are going to help. Good luck everyone else in finding your family/friends and thank you BBC for having this facility to put out a message, Sally
Sally Troth, England
Our thanks to the BBC for getting us news of Harish Sankaran. He's alive and well and back with us.
It's impressive how the Have Your Say pages which I log on to read people's opinions and ideas on current affairs have been so very useful and have helped people find loved ones and friends. It makes you think that in a disaster so great, even small things make a difference. Good work BBC I applaud you and I shall continue reading all the comments
David Hilton, Huddersfield, UK
Several people contacted me after reading my posting on BBC News about a missing friend, Payab Vichaya, in Thailand. They were also friends of Payab and I was able to update them on the whereabouts of our mutual friend. He is safe and sound! Thanks for the service you have offered to us.
Lindsey Foster, Austin, TX, USA
We were so very grateful to the BBC for this service. Our friends and their three small children were in Sri Lanka and we had no idea if they were safe for six days. They had been registered with the Foreign Office as missing by an uncle which was a worrying sign. However, I knew that if only I could get an email on the BBC site, we would receive information. It took five days of trying but finally on Dec 31 you posted our message. The following day Susan Bracey from Plymouth replied that she had heard our friends were safe. We are very grateful to both her and the BBC and so very sorry for the people who did not receive such happy news.
Gillian Bowditch, Stirling, Scotland