U.S. readies relief for quake-hit ally Japan

President Barack Obama sent condolences to the people of Japan on Friday and said the United States would provide any help its close ally needed after a massive earthquake and tsunami killed hundreds.

The Defense Department was preparing American forces in the Pacific Ocean to provide relief after the quake, which generated a tsunami that headed across the Pacific past Hawaii and toward the west coast of the U.S. mainland.

Authorities said hundreds of people were killed in Japan and the toll was expected to surpass 1,000.

Obama was awakened by his chief of staff, Bill Daley, at about 4 a.m. EST and called Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan later in the morning.

"On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed," Obama said at a midday news conference.

"I’m heartbroken by this tragedy," Obama said.

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