No progress in search for 7 missing in chopper crash

SEOUL/POHANG/DAEGU, South Korea-- Hours of rescue operations have passed without much progress in the search for the seven people missing from a helicopter crash near the Dokdo islets in the East Sea, according to local fire authorities.

The missing chopper took off from Dokdo at around 11:26 p.m. Thursday before falling into waters near the islets in just a few minutes. Seven South Koreans, including an injured person from a fishing boat, a friend and five rescue officials were reportedly on board.

The National Fire Agency said it introduced the EC-225 Super Puma long-range passenger transport helicopter, developed by Eurocopter, in 2016.

The two pilots of the doomed chopper were both veterans with at least 17 years of career experience either in the military or civilian sector, according to the agency.

The model is the same as the helpicopter that crashed off the coast of Norway in April 2016. Its main rotor blades separated from the body and crashed, killing all 13 people aboard.

Dozens of naval ships, helicopters and civilian fishing boats joined the search operations to no avail as of 10 a.m., according to officials.

More than 30 divers were dispatched to the scene, but they have not been able to go underwater due to severe weather conditions.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon ordered relevant ministries to put in full-fledged efforts to rescue survivors and search missing passengers.

President Moon Jae-in ordered a safety inspection of the crashed model, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung.

The missing chopper can carry up to 28 passengers and fly at 324 kilometers per hour.

Two EC-225 choppers were in operation by local fire authorities and mostly used to rescue people and fight wildfires. The other is in service to cover Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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