The United States on Wednesday offered assistance to South Korea after a ferry sank off the country's coast leaving hundreds missing.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “The U.S. stands ready to assist as needed.”

Carney said the Navy was sending the USS Bonhomme Richard to the area to help.

According to reports, the ferry Sewol, which was carrying 462 passengers and crew, sunk off the southwestern coast of South Korea Wednesday night.

The disaster left more than 280 people missing as the South Korean military and coast guard searched the waters for survivors.

The New York Times reported that six people were confirmed dead but that rescuers believed that dozens more may have been trapped below deck as the ship sunk.