A team of UK search and rescue specialists and medics is due to join the massive relief mission in tsunami-ravaged Japan amid the continuing threat of a catastrophic nuclear meltdown.
At least 1,300 people are believed to have been killed by the wall of water, but thousands more are missing – including 10,000 from the Japanese coastal town of Minamisanriku.
Strong aftershocks have rocked the north-east area of the island nation, with one measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale striking on Sunday morning, further hindering the multi-national rescue effort.
Meanwhile, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the cooling system of a third nuclear reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant had failed, with experts constantly monitoring levels of radioactivity in the quarantined area.
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Japan mobilised 50,000 military and other rescue personnel to spearhead a Herculean rescue and recovery effort, a day after being hit by its most devastating quake and tsunami on record.
Every wing of the Self Defence Forces was thrown into frantic service on Saturday, with hundreds of ships, aircraft and vehicles headed to the Pacific coast area where at least 1,000 people were feared dead and entire neighbourhoods had vanished.
As emergency staff in the quake-prone archipelago dug through rubble and plucked survivors off the roofs of submerged houses, Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned that day one after the catastrophe was a crucial window for survivors.
"I realized the huge extent of the tsunami damage," the centre-left premier said after taking a helicopter tour of the apocalyptic scenes, before meeting his cabinet ministers for an emergency meeting in Tokyo.
Read the rest of the story: Japan launches gargantuan quake rescue effort.