President Barack Obama offered assistance to Japan on Friday after an 8.9 earthquake hit just off the coast of the northeastern city of Sendai, triggering a tsunami which has so far caused up to 300 deaths, according to local officials.

The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial, Obama said in a statement released at 6:00 a.m., about 5 hours after the quake struck in Japan.

Chief of Staff Bill Daley notified the President around 4 a.m. EST, the White House said.

The quake struck Japan at 12:46 a.m. EST (2:46 p.m. in Tokyo). The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a pair of regional warnings within the first hour of the quake followed by widespread warnings in the subsequent hours.

Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis, he said.

The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.

The President said he instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of US states and territories that could be affected.