The World Press Photo 2012 exhibition, which showcases the year's most striking news photographs from around the world, has opened at the Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank.

The 55th annual World Press Photo exhibition runs until 27 November, and displays press images of the world's most disturbing events of the past year. These include images from the Arab Spring - from demonstrators in Tahir Square to Libyan rebels fighting during the uprising against Colonel Gaddafi.

The photos on display were selected by a panel of judges from over 100,000 submissions. The exhibition of prize-winning photographs will travel to 45 countries over the next year.

Among the images selected for display are photos from the Norwegian massacre and from the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of last year. One of the tsunami photos on display includes the famous image of a woman sitting and crying, alone amidst the ruins of the town of Natori. The photograph won third prize in the Singles category.

The World Press Photo of the Year is also on display at the exhibition. The winning photograph by Samuel Aranda is an image of a Yemeni woman, Fatima al-Qaws, cradling her son Zayed in Sanaa, Yemen, on 15 October 2011.

"Zayed was suffering from the effects of tear gas after being fired at as he approached a government checkpoint during protests against the authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Zayed remained in a coma for two days after the incident. The image was taken at a mosque that was being used as a temporary field hospital where Ms Qaws found her son among the wounded," according to the exhibition's curators.

The exhibition features a total of 169 photographs. For more information, see the World Press Photo website.

Scroll down to view some of the most heart-wrenching images from around the world, taken from the World Press Photo 2012 exhibition...

The 55th World Press Photo of the Year by Samuel Aranda of New York Times. A Yemeni woman, Fatima al-Qaws, cradling her son Zayed in Sanaa, Yemen, on 15 October 2011.Southbank Centre
An aerial photo shows a residential area being hit by a tsunami in Natori, Miyagi prefecture March 11, 2011. The picture taken by photographer Koichiro Tezuka has won first prize in Spot News stories category at World Press Photo contest.Reuters
A woman prays at the foot of the Saut d’Eau waterfall, honoring Ezeli, the goddess of love and beauty. The photograph by Emiliano Larizza has won 2nd prize in Arts and Entertainment stories category of World Press Photo contest 2012.Emiliano Larizza/contrasto
A woman cries while sitting on a road amid the destroyed city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan, on 13 March, two days after the tsunami that devastated much of Japan’s northeastern coast. Once a thriving farm town of about 74,000 people, Natori was virtually wiped from the map. The photograph by Toshiyuki Tsunenari has won 3rd prize in General News singles category.REUTERS
A 22-year-old woman in a wedding gown is grabbed by Guo Zhongfan, a local community officer, as she attempts to kill herself by jumping out of a seven-storey residential building in Changchun, Jilin province May 17, 2011. According to local media, the woman tried to commit suicide after her boyfriend of four years broke up with her, just as they were making plans to get married. The woman did not sustain any injuries during the incident. Picture taken May 17, 2011 by Li Yang has won 3rd prize in Spot News singles category.Reuters