Seven South Koreans disappeared after helicopter crash near disputed islets

SEOUL: Seven South Koreans disappeared Friday after their helicopter took off and crashed into the sea moments later, Seoul officials said.

The plane had just picked up a wounded fisherman from Dokdo, known as Takeshima in Japan, when it crashed Thursday night.

The southern coast guard, members of the National Fire Agency and civil boats were looking for survivors, while the defense ministry had also sent airplanes and divers to the area, a spokesman for the National Southern Fire Agency told AFP .

The crashed helicopter is a Eurocopter EC225, manufactured by the European aerospace company Airbus.

The seven people on board were five rescuers, the fisherman and a civilian. The patient was in a fishing boat when he lost one of his fingers due to an accident, and the crew took him to Dokdo and waited for the rescue helicopter there, the official said.

The patient needed an immediate medical operation that could only have been performed in facilities on the continent. Seoul has controlled the islets of Dokdo in the Sea of ​​Japan, or East Sea, since 1945, when the brutal colonial government of Tokyo on the peninsula ended, while Tokyo still claims sovereignty over them.