NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: A firefighter looks through debris of a fire that destroyed dozens of homes during superstorm Sandy in the Breezy Point neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
Photographer: Getty Images
Copyright Getty Images
An inferno spread across a flooded neighborhood of Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, New York, early Tuesday, torching at least 80 homes as a potent mix of weather blasted the region.
Some 200 firefighters battled the six-alarm blaze in Breezy Point, which was fed by high winds and made more perilous by downed electrical wires, according to witnesses and local authorities.
"The winds were just devastating, blowing from one building to another," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference.
By daybreak, emergency personnel and local volunteers could be seen sloshing through flooded streets to put out patches of remaining flames while others assessed what had been lost.
Fire authorities reported three people were injured by the storm, though all injuries were considered minor.
"It was terrible," said Steve Mastrandrea, a Breezy Point resident and volunteer firefighter, who said he was "trying to give a helping hand and ... got trapped."
"We couldn't help anybody," he said. "I couldn't even help myself."
Floodwaters engulfed Mastrandrea's home and began to rise from his basement as the fire raged outside.
"We couldn't tell if the fires were 100 yards or a mile away," he said. "It was just so bright. I couldn't tell where it was.
"I thought we were going to have to jump in the water," he added.
Mastrandrea's home was largely destroyed as he fled with his family to higher ground.
"There's nothing here," he said. "Our homes can always be rebuilt. As long as we have our lives and we're safe."
The National Guard and other emergency personnel fanned out across the neighborhood. It's not clear what started the fire.
"I'm not sure where to go from here besides calling the insurance company," said Richard Kohlbrecher. "I've been down here most of my life. Through 'the Perfect Storm' ... the water got deep, but nothing like this."
The 'Perfect Storm' is a reference to a 1991 northeaster that got absorbed in Hurricane Grace, which then wreaked havoc along the U.S. East Coast and left around a dozen people dead.
Meanwhile, some described the scene in Breezy Point as one of "total destruction."
"There is nothing in this one cluster of homes," T.J. Gilmartin told CNN. "And every house along the side that's still up is damaged. ... Even the sidewalk is ripped up."
In September, the same area endured severe weather as a powerful cold front brought heavy rain, high winds and a tornado into the beachfront neighborhood of New York City.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Did You Hear?
It may seem a little far-fetched right now but it could become a reality if space companies like Virgin Galactic realize their aspirations over the next 30 years or so.
Scientists have reconstructed a nearly complete mitochondrial genome of an ancient human relative, whose remains were found in Sima de los Huesos ("pit of bones") in northern Spain.
Hampton Creek Foods is scouring the planet for plants that can replace chicken eggs in everything from cookies to omelets to French toast. Its first product is an egg-free mayonnaise now sold at Whole Foods Markets.
Narrowly beating a midnight deadline, Congress voted Monday to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms that can evade airport detection machines