BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday expressed "deep sympathy and solicitudes to the Japanese government and people" after a powerful earthquake hit Japan.
Wen, on behalf of the Chinese government, sent a message to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan that China is willing to offer necessary assistance to the country.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also offered his condolences to Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto.
Chinese earthquake rescuers are prepared to go to Japan to join in earthquake relief if needed, director of the China Earthquake Administration Chen Jianmin said.
China's International Rescue Team has put its members, equipment, materials and medicines in place and are ready to depart for Japan at any time, Chen told Xinhua.
An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit Japan Friday afternoon and triggered powerful tsunami. Nuclear power plants were shut up, traffic on the Shinkansen high-speed railway lines suspended and Narita International Airport closed.
So far, more than 200 bodies have been found, according to Japanese media.
"We are highly concerned about the earthquake in Japan and its consequences such as fires and building damages," Chen said.
The breaking news grabbed headlines in China. The national TV covered the disaster in its prime time programs. Numerous videos, stories and threads about the deadly event were poured online.
Ordinary Chinese expressed their care through microblogging.
A whopping 4.5 million Twitter-like microblogs were posted online in just four hours after the earthquake, according to the statistics of tech.sina.com, the leading microblogging site in China.
Due to the disrupted telecommunications in Japan, many Chinese posted microblogs to find their loved ones.
A microblog, which had been shared 2,920 times as of 9:30 p.m., was to find 28-year-old Tan Lili, an exchange doctoral candidate from Zhejiang University to Sendai, a city very close to the epicenter and expected to be one of the worst damaged in the disaster.
Chen said earlier that the devastating earthquake would not affect the Chinese mainland "obviously," but most parts of the Pacific region should keep vigilant against a tsunami triggered by the quake.
Chen said Chinese seismologists were evaluating possible impacts on China's coastline after a massive tsunami had hit part of Japan.
The earthquake had prompted a tsunami warning, but the waves were unlikely to bring devastating impact on China, said China's National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center in a statement.
"Experts believe that the coastal areas (in China) will have tides which will be less than 50 centimeters high, which would not cause damages," Chen said.
Flights to Japan were affected. A China Southern Airlines flight from the southern China city of Guangzhou to Tokyo was forced to make an emergency landing in Osaka at 3: 27 p.m.(Beijing Time).
The airline, the nation's largest carrier by fleet, canceled its flights to Tokyo for tomorrow and halted ticket sales for March 13.
China Southern Airlines officials said the flights from China to other Japanese cities such as Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Hiroshima, had not been affected by the quake.
China's top political advisory body on Friday also sent condolences to Japan and hoped that the Japanese people can recover from the disaster soon.
"We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the affected people and hope that they can overcome the difficult situation as soon as possible," said Zhao Qizheng, spokesman for the Fourth Session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
"I still have a vivid memory of the brave Japanese people who overcame the hardships after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, therefore, I am confident that they can recover soon," Zhao said.
Qiu Lili, team leader of the Beijing Red Cross Blue Sky Rescue Team, told Xinhua that they have contacted the Japanese Embassy, expressing their will to help.
"We will also send a formal letter to the embassy soon and wait for their reply," she said.
The team issued an emergency call through microblogging and cell phone short message services to their members to stand by, just two hours after the destructive quake.