UN says Japan accepts offer of foreign search teams

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Japan has accepted a United Nations offer to send four specialist teams to help in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in which hundreds are feared dead, the UN said Friday.

"Japan has accepted for the moment the sending of four search and rescue teams, "a spokeswoman of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in Geneva.

"It involves teams from the United States, New Zealand,Australia and the Republic of Korea," she said adding that she did not know when the search teams would arrive in Japan.

About 60 international teams from more than 45 states are on alert, watching the situation and ready to help Japan if the country asks, the UN said.

"The United Nations stands by the people of Japan and we will do anything and everything we can at this very difficult time," the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said earlier.

The quake, which hit at 2:46 pm (0546 GMT) and lasted about two minutes, rattled buildings in greater Tokyo, the world's largest urban area and home to some 30 million people.

It was felt in Beijing, some 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) away. A strong quake which hit the west of Honshu island, away from the tsunami, early Saturday was felt in Tokyo.

© 2011 AFP

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