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More than 120 people trapped on remote New York island after refusing to evacuate during superstorm Sandy
- Rescue services have rescued 14 people in aerial evacuation and are trying to figure out how to save other stranded households
- 12 homes were washed away and 80 percent of the remaining homes on the island were damaged by the storm
- The Coastal Service said the destruction was the worst since a hurricane in 1938
- Dunes have flattened, beaches wiped out and the coastline may have been permanently broken
- Electricity cables have failed and the water is several meters deep and another high water is expected this afternoon
- People use canoes to get around
At least 120 people are stranded on an island off the coast of New York with no power and polluted water after ignoring mandatory orders to evacuate before superstorm Sandy hit.
Twelve oceanfront homes were swept away and officials said there was damage to 80 percent of the remaining homes on Fire Island, off Long Island’s south coast.
There are no reports of injuries from the narrow barrier island, but its small population is facing its worst devastation since Hurricane Long Island Express ravaged the northeast in 1938.
With rescuers unable to land because the island’s marinas have been destroyed, the rebellious residents of the popular summer resort count themselves lucky to have survived the storm that has so far killed 50 people.
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Devastation: A house is ripped off its foundations after Superstorm Sandy engulfed the community of Atlantique on Fire Island
Wreckage: The damage to a home on the mile-long island, where 120 residents refused to evacuate
Shellshocked: Households on the small 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 we’ve lost some homes. All the city docks are flooded at this point.”
The Coast Guard flew over the island to assess the damage and the fire department planned to free the stranded residents.
A spokesman for the US National Parks Service said park rangers are still trying to assess the damage but fear radical changes to the island’s geography after sand dunes are leveled and beaches are swept away.
The Fire Island News Facebook page reported today, “The damage is extensive. Electricity lines have failed. Houses are flooded. Standing water is several meters deep with every walk. Another high tide is expected this afternoon.
Violent storm: Men pass a flooded walkway on Fire Island and assess damage from fallen trees, overturned cars and downed power lines
Abandoned: Residents use canoes to escape from their homes and get around the flooded island
“No one will really know the true extent of the damage until the water has receded enough to allow movement. At the moment, some people use canoes.’
One of the residents who ignored the order to evacuate and stay at their residence said she does not regret the decision to stay.
“The wind was fierce,” Karen Boss said. ‘My house was rocking, we were heading towards the ocean – the waves were extremely high.
“When the tide came in the bay, the water overflowed the boardwalk.”
As of yesterday morning, rescuers had helped 14 people off the island, which is south of Long Island, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, communications director for Suffolk County.
Permanent damage: coastline is broken, with flattened dunes, washed-out beaches and coastal erosion
The superstorm devastated the East Coast and four instant washovers crashed across Fire Island.
The swell of the Atlantic Ocean blanketed the Great South Bay and slammed into the island, which is less than a mile wide and had a population of just 310 at 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 councilor Chris Nuzzi said there was two to six feet of sand along a main road as dunes had been pushed back and flattened, and others were littered with rubble.
Much of the coastline is heavily eroded, according to News daybut may come back in the spring as part of a natural cycle.
Television footage shows the havoc wreaked on the coast of Fire Island
“This is probably the worst on my list in terms of the extent of the damage,” said Oyster Bay supervisor John Venditto, who is 63 and has lived in the city all his life. ‘It’s overwhelming. It’s absolutely devastating.
“For the first time ever, we had to have city personnel perform search and rescue missions to get people to higher ground.”
In the village of Mastic Beach on Brookhaven’s south shore, the air reeked of oil, a result of tanks flooding from homes in the flooded area of Narrow Bay as a storm surge. In Long Beach, sewers were overwhelmed and officials brought portable toilets for city residents.
Kings Point saw a storm surge of over 4 metres, the third highest on record.
Flood Damage on Fire Island: Helicopter teams plan to rescue trapped residents
While authorities have yet to assess the damage from the washovers, at least one was so deep that it may have permanently breached the island, creating a gap between the ocean and the bay.
US Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Chris Gardner said local officials can ask his team for help if they are unable to repair any of the breaches.
The Suffolk County Fire and Rescue Team and the Air National Guard flew helicopters over the island to assess the damage.
The helicopter teams will also determine the best method to eventually remove the people from the island.
AERIAL PHOTOS: Flooding on Fire Island where 120 people were detained