Breezy Point inferno: photo that captures the horror of Queens

Oct 31, 2012

The homes were built by Irish cops and firefighters – but the flooding prevented them responding

ONE of the most shocking photographs taken in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's rampage through New York City depicts the 111 houses burnt to the ground in Breezy Point, a residential neighbourhood of Queens.
Late on Monday, as the superstorm mauled New York, a fire started in the heart of the community, which sits on a strip of land connected by bridges to Brooklyn and Queens. Most reports suggest it was an electrical fire, though there had been speculation that a burst gas pipe might be to blame.

Whatever the cause, Sandy's gusting wind acted as a bellows, fanning the flames from wooden bungalow to wooden bungalow.
Breezy Point, described by Bob Sullivan of NBC news as "a target for both New Yorkers and every large storm that roars ashore from the Atlantic", was under mandatory evacuation orders when the storm first broke out.

Families who had fled Sandy could only watch on TV as images were broadcast of their homes burning.

There is a sad irony in the fact that Breezy Point, known as New York’s ‘Irish Riviera’, grew up as a community of Irish fire-fighters and police officers. There are still many fire-fighters resident in the area, but when it mattered most, the flooding meant they couldn’t get there.

“By the time help arrived, the flooded streets had formed a chest-high moat around the flames, preventing [fire] trucks from even getting close” the New York Times reported. By morning, the blaze had destroyed 111 homes, leaving behind little more than ash, rubble and the buildings' concrete foundations.

At the Fire Department of New York, deputy assistant chief Jack Mooney said there were, miraculously, no serious injuries at Breezy Point. But the scenes of devastation were still shocking. “The worst thing I saw like this was the Trade Center,” said Mooney. “I never saw anything like this in 34 years on the job. This looks like Berlin in WWII.”

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