More than 120 people trapped on remote New York island after refusing to evacuate during Superstorm Sandy
- Rescue services have saved 14 people in aerial evacuation and are trying to work out how to save other stranded households
- 12 houses have been washed away and 80 per cent of remaining homes on the island damaged by storm
- Coastal service said the devastation was the worst since a 1938 hurricane
- Dunes have been flattened, beaches wiped out and coastline may have been permanently breached
- Power lines are down and water is several feet deep with another high tide expected this afternoon
- People are using canoes to get around
At least 120 people remain trapped on an island off the coast of New York with no power and contaminated water after ignoring the mandatory order to evacuate before Superstorm Sandy hit.
Twelve oceanfront houses were swept away and officials said there was damage to 80 per cent of the remaining homes on Fire Island, off the south shore of Long Island.
There are no reports of injuries from the narrow barrier island, but its tiny population faces the worst devastation since Long Island Express hurricane pounded the Northeast in 1938.
With rescuers unable to land because the island’s marinas have been destroyed, the defiant residents of the popular summer resort are counting themselves lucky they survived the storm which has so far killed 50 people.
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Devastation: A house is ripped from its foundations after Superstorm Sandy washed over the community of Atlantique on Fire Island
Wreckage: The damage wreaked on a house on the one-mile island, where 120 residents refused to evacuate
Shellshocked: Households on the tiny island are struggling to repair the damage and 14 have been rescued by helicopter
‘We still have residents on Fire Island,’ said Anthony Senft, a local Islp councilman. ‘We know that we’ve lost some houses. All of the town docks are underwater at this point.’
The Coast Guard has flown over the island to assess the damage and fire departments were planning how to take the stranded residents off.
A spokesman for the U.S. National Parks Service said rangers are still trying to assess the damage but fear radical changes to the island’s geography after sand dunes were leveled and beaches wiped out.
Fire Island News’ Facebook page reported today: ‘Damage is extensive. Power lines are down. Houses are flooded. Standing water is several feet deep on every walk. There is still one high tide expected this afternoon.
Violent storm: Men pass through a flooded walkway on Fire Island, assessing damage from fallen trees, overturned cars and downed power lines
Abandoned: Residents are using canoes to escape their homes and get around the flooded island
‘No one will really know the actual mount of damage until the water recedes enough to get around. Right now some folks are using canoes.’
One of the residents who ignored the order to evacuate and remain with their property said she does not regret the decision to stay on.
‘The winds were wild,’ said Karen Boss. ‘My house was rocking, we did head up towards the ocean – the waves were extremely high.
‘When the high tide came into the bay, water gushed over the boardwalk.’
By yesterday morning, rescuers had helped 14 people off the island, which is south of Long Island, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, director of communications for Suffolk County.
Permanent damage: The shoreline has been breached, with dunes flattened, beaches wiped out and coast eroded
The superstorm has devastated the Eastern Seaboard and four immediate ‘washovers’ crashed across Fire Island.
The Atlantic Ocean swell covered the Great South Bay and smashed across the island, which is less than one mile wide and had a population of just 310 in the 2000 census.
Suffolk County fire and emergency services commissioner Joe Williams said it looked like most of the beaches and dunes were gone.
Southampton councilman Chris Nuzzi said there was two to six feet of sand along one main road because dunes had been pushed back and flattened, and others were littered with debris.
Much of the shoreline has been badly eroded, according to Newsday, but could come back in the spring as part of a natural cycle.
Television footage surveys the havoc wreaked on the coast of Fire Island
‘This is probably the worst one on my list in the extent of damage,’ said Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, who is 63 and has lived in town all his life. ‘It’s overwhelming. It’s absolutely devastating.
‘For the first time ever, we’ve had to have town personnel perform search and rescue missions to take people to higher ground.’
In the village of Mastic Beach on Brookhaven’s south shore, the air reeked of oil, a result of tanks that flooded as storm surge from Narrow Bay inundated area houses. In Long Beach, sewer systems were overwhelmed and officials were bringing in portable toilets for city residents.
Kings Point saw a storm tide of more than 14 feet, third highest of all time.
Flood damage on Fire Island: Helicopter teams plan to rescue trapped residents
While authorities have still to assess the damage caused by the washovers, at least one was so deep that it may have permanently breached the island, causing an opening between the ocean and the bay.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Chris Gardner said local officials may call on his team for help if they are unable to repair one of the breaches.
The Suffolk County Fire and Rescue team and the Air National Guard were flying helicopters over the island to assess the damage.
The helicopter teams also will determine the best method for eventually removing the people from the island.
AERIAL FOOTAGE: Flooding on Fire Island where 120 people trapped