Global markets have further responded to the Japanese disaster, with shares in two top US insurers - AIG and XL Group Plc falling. Shares in Japan's top insurance company, Aflac, have also dropped by as much as three per cent.
Stocks in European insurance companies have also plunged, with a number of firms saying they expect to be significantly affected by the quake. Traders are worried about expensive claims. And insurers are already dealing with the aftermath of the powerful earthquake in New Zealand last month, which has been estimated to incur insured losses of up to $12bn.
The United Nations is adding its voice to those pledging support for Japan. Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, said the body would "do anything and everything" to help the quake and tsunami-hit nation.
"The world is shocked and saddened by the images coming out of Japan this morning," Ban said.
"We will do anything and everything we can at this very difficult time."
More on earlier reports of bodies being found in the Japanese town of Sendai.
Local news agencies report that up to 300 bodies were reported found in the Wakabayashi ward of the quake and tsunami-hit town. Officials said nearly all of the 1,200 homes in the district were hit by the tsunami.
And a search is now underway for a ship carrying at least 80 people that was swept away when the wave hit.
Waves from the earthquake-triggered tsunami have hit the shores of Hawaii, local TV has reported.
No damage has been reported from the relatively small waves, which were measured at around half a metre high, the AFP news agency said.
A few other web-based tools for people in Tokyo struggling in the aftermath of the earthquake.
This map aims to show people stuck in the capital without a means of getting home where open shelters are in the city.
And this one reportedly shows places where free wifi is available. Both of these courtesy of freelance journalist @nobi
Japan's earthquake is one of the most powerful to hit since records began. Find out more with our timeline on other devastating quakes around the world in recent years.
And click here for more expert advice on why Japan is so prone to this type of devastation.
A few reports coming in from the northern city of Sendai, which bore the full brunt of the quake, saying that police have discovered "hundreds" of bodies along the coast.
Separately, Google has now set up a crisis response page, aiming to provide emergency information. http://www.google.co.jp/intl/en/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html
It follows a similar one set up in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.
A ship carrying 100 people has been swept away by the tsunami off Japan's coast, the Kyodo news agency has reported, saying its whereabouts are still unknown.
Meanwhile authorities have told residents living near the Fukushima nuclear plant, hit by a fire earlier, to evacuate the area.
Authorities said peole living in a two kilometre radius of the No.2 reactor of the Fukushima No.1 plant should leave.
Tokyo Electric Power Co, which operates the plant, is still working to maintain water levels to avert the exposure of nuclear fuel rods, the Reuters news agency said.
The European Union has said it would "mobilise all appropriate assistance" to Japan in response to the quake.
China has also said its rescue workers are on standby to go to the area and had put personnel, equipment and medicine in place.
Images of 10-metre tsunami that hit near Sendai - where tide of black water sent cars and debris swirling: