World rushes to help after the tsunami

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International search and rescue teams rushed to Japan yesterday in the wake of a massive 8.9 magnitude quake and crushing tsunami, some straight from similar work in quake-hit New Zealand.

A Japanese team of 66 personnel that has spent more than two weeks scouring the rubble left by last month's 6.3 magnitude quake in Christchurch made hasty preparations to return home.

And the United States said it was sending close to 150 rescue workers to the disaster zone, among them a team from Los Angeles that had returned from New Zealand only two days ago.

From Queen Elizabeth II to superstar entertainer Lady Gaga, the world has rallied to support Japan, where tsunami waves up to 10m rolled across the northeast on Friday.

"Our prayers and thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the dreadful disaster," the Queen said in her message to Japan's Emperor Akihito.

Governments around the world offered their help, with US President Barack Obama ordering emergency aid, including an aircraft carrier, to Japan after the catastrophe he described as "simply heartbreaking".

The US Agency for International Development said it was sending two teams of 72 personnel, dogs and around 75 tonnes of rescue equipment each.

With more than 1000 people feared dead and authorities scrambling to prevent meltdown at two nuclear plants, Japanese officials have requested other nations provide sniffer dogs to help search for trapped survivors.

Australia, South Korea and Singapore will all send dogs and search and rescue teams, their governments said yesterday as they expressed their condolences to Tokyo.

Calls of sympathy and support have poured in from around the world, including from China, India and the European Union.

New Zealand has sent 48 urban search and rescue staff: "Japan responded to New Zealand's own tragic earthquake with enormous support, and we are ready to help our friends in Japan at this time of need in whatever way we can," Prime Minister John Key said.

The United Nations said about 60 international teams were on alert to assist Japan if asked.

- AFP

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