New York's Breezy Point destroyed by superstorm Sandy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 4:08am

Fire and water don't mix? Tell that to the shell-shocked residents of New York's Breezy Point, an entire neighbourhood wiped out in a hellish blizzard of fire and flood during superstorm Sandy.

On Tuesday, isolated outbreaks of orange flames still licked at the sprawling, blackened pile that was all that remained of one of Breezy Point's most beloved beachfront areas.

More than 80 houses vanished in the blaze. Simultaneously, hundreds of others were left sodden and shaken by water.

No one has been confirmed to have died in the district, but many residents compared the devastation to a battlefront.

Carol Anderson, whose nearby house escaped the fire but instead was hammered by flooding, even had trouble identifying where streets had been.

"This is Ocean Avenue," she said hesitatingly, picking her way over charred beams and under scorched, dangling telephone and electrical lines.

Nearby, a fire crew hosed down a still-burning wall. There were small flames and columns of smoke everywhere. Flames even flickered at the top of a broken telegraph pole, like a ghastly candle.

"What a disaster. It's like a war zone," said Anderson, 53.

It's not clear yet what ignited the fire in the middle of a storm that brought intense rain and an Atlantic surge pouring through the Breezy Point community.

Lifelong resident Rob Kirk, who installs fire sprinkler systems for a living, said houses in the tightly packed beach portion of the community were required to have walls able to contain fires for up to two hours.

But those building standards never took into account winds of up to 150km/h.

"When you basically have a blowtorch going, that two hours is out the window. It's more like five minutes," said Kirk, 55.

His own house escaped the blaze but was badly damaged by flooding.

Nearly every street in Breezy Point remained underwater hours after Sandy had passed.

Dan O'Leary, 62, said Breezy Point regulars respect the power of the sea and sky. But he'd never imagined witnessing such destruction.

"You live by the sea. You expect water, you can live with that. But not fire," he said.