NEW YORK – A huge fire destroyed 80 to 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood Tuesday, forcing firefighters to undertake daring rescues and injuring three people.
More than 190 firefighters contained the blaze but were still putting out some pockets of fire more than nine hours after it erupted.
As daylight broke, neighbors walked around aimlessly through their smoke-filled Breezy Point neighborhood, which sits on the Rockaway peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. Electrical wires dangled within feet of the street.
Officials said the fire was reported around 11 p.m. Monday in an area flooded by the superstorm that began sweeping through the city earlier.
Firefighters told WABC-TV that the water was chest high on the street, and they had to use a boat to make rescues. They said in one apartment home, about 25 people were trapped in an upstairs unit, and the two-story home next door was ablaze and setting fire to the apartment's roof. Firefighters climbed an awning to get to the trapped people and took them downstairs to a boat in the street.
Video footage of the scene showed a hellish swath of tightly packed homes fully engulfed in orange flames as firefighters hauled hoses while sloshing in ankle-high water. Many homes appeared completely flattened by the wind-whipped flames.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was taken to a hospital. Two civilians suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
In September, the same neighborhood was struck by a tornado that hurled debris in the air, knocked out power and startled residents who once thought of twisters as a Midwestern phenomenon.