Switzerland is sending 25 rescuers and nine sniffer dogs to Japan after Friday's earthquake and tsunami.
Japan gave Switzerland the go-ahead to send the rescue team overnight on Friday. The country suffered its biggest earthquake on record, which sent a 10-metre high tsunami through towns and cities across the northeast coast. At least 900 people are believed dead and 700 injured.
The Swiss team, which includes experts in natural disasters, water, medicine and buildings, are due to arrive in Japan early on Sunday.
Toni Frisch, head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, told Swiss radio that the Japanese disaster required specialists and more than a “standard rescue operation” that follows an earthquake. Among the team’s tasks will be searching for victims underneath the debris of the tsunami and putting aid measures in place.
Around 45 countries have offered their help to Japan. The United Nations is sending a group to coordinate work by the international community. A spokesman said four teams from the United States, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea were already on their way.
In another development, an explosion blew the roof off an unstable nuclear reactor 240km north of Tokyo on Saturday, raising fears of a meltdown.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano confirmed there was an explosion and radiation leak, but not inside the reactor container. Due to the falling level of cooling water, hydrogen was generated and that leaked to the space between the building and the container. The explosion happened when the hydrogen mixed with oxygen there, he said.
A 20km evacuation zone was being enforced around Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
swissinfo.ch and agencies