|More than 68 search and rescue teams from 45 countries have offered aid to Japan [Reuters]
Japan has requested a limited number of foreign search and rescue teams to help with the aftermath of its major earthquake and tsunami, the United Nations said.
More than 68 search and rescue teams from 45 countries have offered aid to Japan, which was hit by the earthquake and tsunami on Friday in the northeast, the UN said.
"Japan has requested international search and rescue teams, but only a handful," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in Geneva.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, told reporters in New York, "the world is shocked and saddened by the images coming out of Japan this morning.
"We will do anything and everything we can at this very difficult time."
At least four teams had been requested - from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States, Byrs said.
Australia, South Korea and Singapore will all send search and rescue teams and sniffer dogs to help search for trapped survivors, their governments said Saturday.
Obama offers help
Barack Obama, the US president, spoke to Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, to offer help "in any way possible", the Japanese Jiji agency reported.
|Obama spoke to the Japanese prime minister and offered to help "in any way possible" [AFP]
"The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial ... The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy," Obama said in a statement.
The US said it was sending close to 150 rescue workers and the military effort included at least six Navy ships, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Leslie Hullryde said.
Earlier, the US Air Force flew coolant to the Fukushima nuclear plant to help deal with a potentially dangerous breakdown of the cooling system, Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, said.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, and Herman Van Rompuy, European Council president, also voiced solidarity. The European Union said Japan had requested search and rescue teams and search dogs.
"Europe's civil protection system has been fully mobilised to help Japan overcome this immense tragedy," said Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian aid and Crisis Response.
The Russian emergency services agency ERMACOM offered 40 people with three sniffer dogs, while Singapore had civil defence forces on standby and Poland offered firefighters.
China and Switzerland also offered rescue teams, while Britain, France and others said they were ready to offer whatever help was required.