Tourists saved after boat sinks off Thai island

A speed boat carrying dozens of foreign tourists near Thailand's popular resort island of Koh Phi Phi sank in abnormally rough seas, police and witnesses said. All 41 people aboard survived.

The boat was carrying 37 Asian and European tourists and four Thai crew members when it sank Monday in the Andaman Sea, Marine Police Lt. Col. Panya Chaichana said. The boat was headed to Phuket, another popular tourist destination.

Navy ships, fishing boats and other nearby vessels raced to the scene and were able to rescue everyone on board, Panya said.

William Ihaka, a 43-year-old tourist from New Zealand who was among those rescued, told The Associated Press the experience was terrifying.

"The sea was very rough ... the water kept coming over the front (of) the boat, and there was so much water coming over the front that the boat started filling up with water," Ihaka said. The crew "told us to put life jackets on, and about five minutes later, the boat sank. So we all jumped off. We were floating in the sea."

Another New Zealander traveling with Ihaka, 39-year-old Elizabeth Hickey, said she was "scared and petrified."

"We were both seated at the front, and the water hit us before it hit anyone else," she said. "We could see the waves, and we just knew that it was going to go down; we knew that the boat was going to sink."

Colin Dallimors, a 48-year-old British tourist, said the first giant wave swamped the boat and stopped the engine, and then another wave struck soon after, dealing a fatal blow.

"Everyone was trying to get out. The boat sank, the boat went down," Dallimors said. "I've never seen anything like that."

Police said the rescued passengers were taken to both Phi Phi and Phuket islands. Among them were nationals of China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Thailand's Meteorological Department had predicted strong rain and high waves in the area on Monday.