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Dharamshala, 19 April 2014: – The spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, expressed his deep sadness at the loss of so many lives as a result of the tragic ferry accident off the coast of South Korea.

In a letter to the President of the Republic of South Korea, Ms Park Geun-hye, written immediately upon his arrival from Japan this afternoon, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his deep sadness at the loss of so many lives as a result of the tragic ferry accident off the coast of South Korea.

The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel peace laureate wrote that "it is especially distressing to know that among the passengers were 350 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, Seoul. The loss of so many, so young is a tragedy that will be harrowingly painful to their families and friends."

His Holiness offered prayers for them all and expressed his condolences to the families of all who have lost their lives, to the President and the people of South Korea.

As the search continues for nearly 240 people still missing from the South Korean ferry disaster, divers have continued their work of recovering bodies, according to media reports.

The death toll in a ferry disaster off the South Korean coast rose to 64 on Sunday as divers continued to recover more bodies from the sunken boat, the Associated Press reports.

About 240 people — many of whom were traveling high school students — remain missing. On 16 April, 174 passengers, including 20 of the 30 crew members, were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

After divers reported no visible damage to the vessel's hull, speculation is mounting that the turn could have dislodged heavy cargo, causing it to list and sink. Five days after the accident, and with the chances of finding anyone alive looking increasingly dificult, it now appears that the hundreds of divers initially brought in to rescue passengers are now involved in a grim recovery operation.

The initial delay in getting all 476 passengers, including 350 high school pupils and their teachers, off the ship made the task far harder. Officers on the bridge of the Sewol, which lies submerged in water off the south-west coast of South Korea, had already indicated that once the vessel was tilting heavily to one side, passengers increasingly found themselves unable to move.

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