By Chung Min-uck
Countries offered their condolences to the families affected by a ferry disaster off Korea's southwestern coast and offered help with the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts.
"We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives on board the South Korean ferry," said Marie Harf, the U.S. State Department's deputy spokeswoman, Thursday.
She described the incident as a "terrible tragedy."
She said Washington was ready to provide any assistance needed in the rescue efforts.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also sent his condolences, said an official at the Korean Embassy in Beijing.
In a statement sent to Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Wednesday night, Wang expressed "deep condolences to the victims of the sunken ferry," the official said.
Wang also said that China would help in the search-and-rescue operation if Korea requests it, according to the official.
Japan followed suit.
Speaking at a forum in Tokyo, Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "I extend my heartfelt sympathy towards people who were hit by the accident and their families."
Separately, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said, "We are offering whatever is necessary to help."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a letter to President Park Geun-hye expressing his deep sorrow for the shipwreck. Ban extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.