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Asylum-Seeker Boat Crashes Off Christmas Island

Asylum-Seeker Boat Crashes Off Christmas Island - Dramatic images from the scene show people in lifejackets in the water clinging to debris.

Officials say 41 people have been rescued.

Christmas Island residents rushed to the scene to try and recover people from the boat, which broke apart in heavy seas after ramming into a cliff.

Another local resident, who says he was the first person on the scene, described waking up to screams and cries for help as the boat approached the cliffs near his home this morning.

Asylum-Seeker Boat Crashes Off Christmas Island

“I could hear people shouting and screaming,” the local businessman told news.com.au.

“I would say at least half of them drowned,” he said.

“The people were in absolute panic, they were screaming and waving at me,” he says.

“There were women and children and babies.”

With 6m to 8m seas buffeting the cliffs, the local resident said he and other locals fought to rescue people from the water using life jackets and ropes.

“It was like they were just out of reach. They were shouting at us and there was nothing we could do.

“We were down at the edge with life jackets and ropes. At that stage we were trying to get them to stay on the boat and we were praying the navy would get here in time.

Asylum-Seeker Boat Crashes Off Christmas Island

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