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UN: Japan Requests Disaster Help From Four Foreign Teams

President Obama receives a briefing on the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami warnings across the Pacific, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 11, 2011

The United Nations says Japan has asked several foreign search and rescue teams to help Japanese authorities deal with the aftermath of a major earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Honshu island on Friday.

The Geneva-based U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says Japan approved the arrival of four specialist teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States. It says at least 45 nations were ready to send aid to Japan if requested.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world is "shocked and saddened" by the images of destruction from Japan. Speaking Friday, he said the United Nations will do "anything and everything" it can to help.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and offered him whatever U.S. assistance is needed. The president said one U.S. aircraft carrier already is in Japan and another carrier is on its way.

The U.S. Defense Department said the two carriers include the USS George Washington, located at its base in Yokosuka, near Tokyo, and the USS Ronald Reagan, which had been en route to South Korea. It said at least six other U.S. navy vessels were being prepared to help Japan's earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

Speaking at a news conference, Obama said he was "heartbroken" by the tragedy in Japan and offered U.S. condolences to the Japanese people. His chief of staff Bill Daley woke him up at 4 a.m. Washington time to alert him to the disaster.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert advising Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Japan, saying there is a risk of strong aftershocks for weeks. It also said there were no reports of Americans killed or injured by the earthquake and tsunami.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.