The captain and three other crew members of the ferry that sank off South Korea last month have been charged with manslaughter through gross negligence.

Sewol captain Lee Joon-Seok, two navigators and a chief engineer could face the death sentence if they are convicted.

They are accused of leaving the ship as it was sinking while telling passengers, mostly secondary school students on a school excursion, to stay where they were.

The four and 11 other low-ranking crew members are accused of being the first to escape to safety, leaving passengers trapped in the sinking vessel.

Coast guard spokesman Ko Myung-Suk said that a further five bodies were retrieved late last night, including one found floating on the surface.

The confirmed death toll now stands at 281, with 23 still missing.

The Sewol was carrying 476 people when it sank on 16 April after listing sharply to one side.