More than 280 people are still missing after a ferry carrying 462 people, mostly high school students, sank off South Korea's southern coast.

Only four people have been confirmed dead so far, but the high number of people unaccounted for suggests that the death toll could rise drastically.

The students on the Sewol ferry were on their way to Jeju island for a four-day trip. Most were in their second year of high school, which would make them 16 or 17.

People look out to the sea as they wait for news of their missing loved ones
People look out to the sea as they wait for news of their missing loved onesGetty
Maritime police search for missing passengers near the sunken Sewol
Maritime police search for missing passengers near the sunken SewolReuters
Flares are released for a night search, following the sinking of South Korean ferry Sewol
Flares are released for a night search, following the sinking of South Korean ferry SewolReuters
Relatives check their phones as they wait for news
Relatives check their phones as they wait for newsGetty
A relative waits at Jindo port
A relative waits at Jindo portGetty
Relatives check the survivor lists at Jindo port
Relatives check the survivor lists at Jindo portGetty
A relative waiting for news of missing passengers stares out to sea
A relative waiting for news of missing passengers stares out to seaGetty
Helicopters fly over the Sewol as it sinks off the coast of Jindo Island
Helicopters fly over the Sewol as it sinks off the coast of Jindo IslandGetty
Passengers are rescued from the sinking ferry by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard
Passengers are rescued from the sinking ferry by the Republic of Korea Coast GuardGetty
The Republic of Korea Coast Guard attempt to rescue passengers from the stricken ferry
The Republic of Korea Coast Guard attempt to rescue passengers from the stricken ferryGetty