Rescuers search for quake survivors
A relief mission of unprecedented proportions was under way in Japan after the country's most powerful earthquake triggered a deadly tsunami which tore into its eastern cost, leaving a trail of utter devastation.
Thousands of troops, 300 planes and 40 ships have been reportedly mobilised by the Japanese government following Friday's catastrophic disaster, amid fears that more than a thousand people have perished.
Survivors are also facing the threat of a radioactive leak, with states of emergency being declared at two nuclear power plants damaged by the sweeping tsunami.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all non-essential travel to Tokyo and the north east of Japan, whilst it assesses the damage caused.
The quake, measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, was around 8,000 times more powerful than the one that devastated Christchurch in New Zealand last month, and the fifth largest recorded since 1900. It was followed by more than 50 aftershocks, with a further earthquake measuring 6.6 hitting the mountainous central part of the country.
The Queen sent a message to Emperor Akihito, saying: "I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake which has struck north east Japan today."
Prime Minister David Cameron said the earthquake was a "terrible reminder of the destructive power of nature" and sent his sympathies to the people of Japan.
Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking after a meeting of the Cobra emergency response committee, said the UK was ready to send humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams.
The Foreign Office said there are no reports of British casualties as yet, but warned that thousands of UK citizens were living or working in the country. Consular teams are on standby in the US, Hong Kong and London.
Disaster experts Rapid UK have a unit of around 59 volunteers on standby to fly to Japan if called upon, providing technical search and rescue experts, as well as paramedic, boat and dog teams.