1742 GMT: President Barack Obama calls the quake a "potentially catastrophic disaster" and says the "images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. He was speaking in a news conference that was delayed by more than an hour, to allow him to be briefed on the situation in Japan and the US response so far.
"We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on the way. And we also have a ship en route to the Marianna Islands to assist as needed," he said.
1719 GMT - This is Karin Zeitvogel in Washington taking over from London with AFP's live reports on the massive quake that struck Japan nearly 12 hours ago, triggering tsunami waves that are now hitting the west coast of the United States.
The quake, which hit near the northeastern city of Sendai at 14:46 pm (0546 GMT) and lasted about two minutes, and the tsunami disaster it triggered may have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, Kyodo News agency says.
1700 GMT: I'm now handing over to my colleagues in Washington -- stay with us for all the latest news following the huge earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan at 14:46 local time (0546 GMT) Friday.
Here's a recap of the key points following the 8.9-magnitude quake -- the strongest ever to hit Japan -- which struck off the northeastern coast of the main island of Honshu, triggering a huge tsunami along Japan's Pacific coast.
-- The 10-metre (33-foot) wave of black water generated by the quake -- the seventh biggest ever recorded -- pulverised the northeastern city of Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, where police reportedly said 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast.
-- More than 90 people have been confirmed killed in addition to the bodies found on the Sendai coast, public broadcaster NHK reported.
-- The wave set off tsunami alerts across the Pacific, including in the US state of Hawaii and in many Latin American nations from Mexico to Chile, where seaside populations were urged to take precautions.
-- A Japanese ship with 100 people aboard was reportedly carried away while more than 300 houses were destroyed in the remote city of Ofunato in Miyagi Prefecture.
-- The government said the tsunami and quake, which was felt in Beijing some 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) away, had caused "tremendous damage", while aerial footage showed massive flooding in northern towns.
-- The quake, which struck about 250 miles (400km) north-east of Tokyo at a depth of 20 miles and lasted about two minutes, rattled buildings in greater Tokyo, the world's largest urban area and home to some 30 million people.
-- In Tokyo, millions who had earlier fled swaying buildings were stranded far away from home in the evening after the earthquake shut down the capital's vast subway system. The mobile phone network was strained to breaking point.
-- There was also major disruption to air travel and bullet train services. A passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was unaccounted for on a line outside Sendai, Kyodo News agency reported.