UPDATE 1-S.Korea searches for survivors of helicopter crash off disputed islands

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(Adds maker of helicopter, TV tag)

SEOUL, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Rescue services were searching for seven missing passengers of a South Korean fire department helicopter that crashed into the sea off the disputed islets of Dokdo on late Thursday, officials said on Friday.

The Airbus Helicopters H225 aircraft, which was carrying a patient to a hospital on the South Korean mainland, crashed shortly after takeoff from Dokdo, officials at Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters said.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said it has sent vessels, planes and divers to help scour the ocean for any sign of the seven passengers who were onboard the plane.

The islets, which both South Korea and Japan claim as their territory, are called Takeshima in Japan. They are controlled by Seoul with a small band of coast guards.

The crashed helicopter entered service with the fire department in 2016 and Airbus had checked its automatic rotation axis between September and October this year, Yonhap said, citing South Korean rescue official Seong Ho-seon.

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The H225 model, previously known as a Eurocopter EC-225, is a long-range and all-weather search and rescue aircraft.

France-based Airbus Helicopters, a unit of Airbus SE and the world's largest commercial helicopter maker, could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee, Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Hyonhee Shin; editing by Jane Wardell)

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