Update (15:30 – Sun 13 March): We’re receiving a lot of questions about volunteering in Japan or sending goods. Please see our website for information on why we don’t send volunteers overseas and why we cannot send goods to disaster zones.

Update: We are now accepting donations for Japan. Please donate to the Red Cross Japan tsunami appeal.

Houses and cars are swept out to sea in Japan
© Reuters/Yomiuri

Today at 2.46pm local time, an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale struck off the eastern coast of Japan. The earthquake shook buildings in Tokyo, causing many injuries, at least one fire and triggering a four-meter tsunami in Sendai, eastern Japan.

According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, a widespread severe tsunami warning is in effect for the entire Pacific, including New Zealand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Samoa, Hawaii, Mexico, Australia, Fiji, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Pacific islands.

The Japanese Red Cross has teams assessing the damage. So far, they haven’t asked for any help from international partners, like the British Red Cross.

We’re waiting to see how the tsunami affects Pacific islands, and we’re keeping an eye on updates from our partners around the world.

The Philippine Red Cross has launched its early warning system and its branches are warning residents to avoid coastal areas and prepare to move to higher ground. The American Red Cross has volunteers in Hawaii and California. Other Red Cross National Societies will also be helping their communities prepare for the tsunami by working alongside the emergency services, evacuating buildings, and staffing rest centres.

The British Red Cross has a Disaster Fund, which helps us be prepared for disasters. Before we launched appeals for the New Zealand and Haiti earthquakes, we gave money from our Disaster Fund to provide immediate relief. We don’t yet know whether we will make a Disaster Fund allocation for the tsunami, but donations to our Disaster Fund will help us be prepared for disasters around the world and in the UK.

All donations to the Disaster Fund are distributed according to where the need is greatest, here in the UK or overseas, and cannot be restricted to particular countries. The British Red Cross is ready to respond in support of the Japanese Red Cross should there be a call for our assistance. Please keep checking our website for updates.