No British casualties were reported, according to the Foreign Office, but staff at Leeds University were last night anxiously awaiting news of six students unaccounted for in Kobe, among a party of 25 on an exchange visit.
Ray Kirton, an engineer, his wife Diane, and four-year-old son Nicholas escaped from their seventh-floor flat minutes before the block collapsed.
David Leyland described how his 14-storey apartment block in Osaka shook: "I thought this was my end. We were asleep at the time when everything started shaking, gently at first. Then it just built up and the whole building shook.
"Things were falling about everywhere and I just jumped out of bed and ran to my son Daniel's bedroom and lay over him to try and protect him."
A travel writer, Johnathan Wall, who had arrived in Japan the night before to write a feature on a holiday resort, was asleep on the 29th floor of the Osaka Hotel. He rushed down an emergency staircase as the top floors of the hotel crumbled.
A relative, Helen Johnson, said: "The top few floors were all badly damaged. We are just so relieved he is all right. Anything could have happened to him. He is lucky to be alive and is now trying to get a plane out of Tokyo."
Joanne Griffiths, 19, who is on a six-month fashion modelling contract in Kobe, was thrown out of bed and suffered cuts from flying glass.
She told her family in Sheffield that when she got to the street rescue workers covered her in blankets and led her away from immediate danger.
Jade Sparks, 16, a colleague of Miss Griffiths at the Sheffield-based Style Model Agency, was flying into Kobe airport last night when she saw the city ablaze. However, the aircraft was able to touch down because the airport was relatively undamaged. Shetelephoned her parents on arrival to let them know she was safe.