WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama extended his condolences on Thursday to the families of loved ones killed or missing after a South Korean ferry capsized Wednesday with 460 people aboard.
The president also noted that he directed the U.S. "military to provide any and all assistance" needed by the South Korean government.
In a statement released by the White House, the president said :
"On behalf of all the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic ferry sinking off the coast of the Republic of Korea. The bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people are strong and enduring, and our hearts ache to see our Korean friends going through such a terrible loss, especially the loss of so many young students.
South Korea is one of our closest allies, and American Navy personnel and U.S. Marines are already on the scene assisting with the search and rescue efforts. I’ve directed our military to provide any and all assistance requested by our Korean partners in the days ahead. As I will underscore on my visit to Seoul next week, America’s commitment to our ally South Korea is unwavering -- in good times and in bad. As the Korean people deal with this heartbreaking tragedy, they will have the unending support and friendship of the United States."
Six people have been confirmed dead and 290 people are still unaccounted for after the ferry capsized. 179 people have been rescued so far after they climbed to the top of the sinking boat or jumped in the water and awaited rescue. The captain of the ferry apologized Thursday.