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New York's Breezy Point Endures Fire And Flood

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Residents of one community in the New York City borough of Queens endured both fire and flood when Sandy hit their barrier island. Two people died in the high water, and at least 80 houses are believed to have burned.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

We're going to spend the next few minutes hearing from people picking up the pieces in the aftermath of the Superstorm Sandy. We'll begin in Breezy Point, New York, where floodwaters are blamed for two deaths. The tiny barrier island in Queens was inundated by water, as high winds whipped up a massive fire. Charles Lane of Member Station WSHU joined residents as they trickled back into the neighborhood, yesterday afternoon, to survey the damage.

CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: I'm in a flatbed truck the NYPD brought in to get residents through the knee-high water and back to their homes. A dozen people hold tight to the rail. They call themselves refugees. Tom Dalton is one of them. He's lived in Breezy Point for all of his 50 years.

TOM DALTON: It's unbelievable. It's just - I mean, look, the water lines are half way up the houses. And, you know, there's - everything's buckled. Everything's shifted, this house is caved in.

LANE: Breezy Point is a working class neighborhood with small bungalow houses packed tightly together. So when one house caught fire it spread to dozens and dozens more. Officials estimate as many as 90 homes burned. We ride past smoldering remains three football fields large. Blackened pieces of cinder block foundation stick out of the ash.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Just hold on a minute.

LANE: The members of the Dalton family jump off the flatbed and make their way to their house. It's still standing, but the basement is flooded.

DALTON: The basement can be repaired. I mean, it's going to take a while to get everything back up and running, but - so, I mean we're lucky.

LANE: Hands in his raincoat pockets, Dalton looks down the deserted street and considers his next move. No power, no heat, and water all around.

DALTON: Probably stay here. You know, I don't have too many options, so we're probably just going to stay here.

LANE: Well, there's shelters.

DALTON: I'm not going to a shelter. We'll stay here and we'll figure out what we're going to do.

LANE: The flatbed comes back around to ferry out those who decide to leave. Some have family nearby and others will go to schools converted into shelters. On the truck, they hug each other and cry. Everyone here seems to know each other. The same families have lived in this part of Queens for generations. Marylin Caprio says most people here work for New York City, cops and firefighters.

MARYLIN CAPRIO: And then they come back and take care of everybody in the community. It's amazing. It's amazing. Good people, very good people.

LANE: The Breezy Point residents jump off the truck, handing each other their suitcases and trash bags full of belongings. This isn't the first hurricane to destroy Breezy Point. They've rebuilt before, they say. They'll do it again.

For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane.

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