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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 air evacuation, trying to figure out how to rescue other stranded households
- 12 houses have been washed away and 80 percent of remaining houses on the island have been damaged by storm
- Coastal Service said the devastation was the worst since a hurricane in 1938
- Dunes have flattened, beaches have been swept away and the coastline may have been permanently violated
- Electricity cables have failed and the water is several meters deep and high water is expected again this afternoon
- People use canoes to get around
At least 120 people are trapped on an island off New York City without power and contaminated water after ignoring the mandatory evacuation order 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 the worst devastation since the 1938 Long Island Express hurricane ravaged the northeast.
With rescue workers unable to land as the island’s marinas have been destroyed, the defiant residents of the popular summer resort are fortunate to have survived the storm that has killed 50 people so far.
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Devastation: A house is ripped from its foundations after Superstorm Sandy swept the Atlantique community on Fire Island
Wreck: The damage done to a house on the mile-long island, where 120 residents refused to evacuate
Shellshocked: Households on the small island struggle to repair damage and 14 have been rescued by helicopter
“We still have residents on Fire Island,” said Anthony Senft, a local Islp councilor. “We know that we have lost a number of houses. All city docks are under water at this point.”
The Coast Guard flew over the island to assess the damage and the fire service planned to remove the stranded residents.
A spokesman for the US National Parks Service said rangers are still trying to assess the damage but fear radical changes to the island’s geography after sand dunes are leveled and beaches swept away.
The Fire Island News Facebook page reported today: ‘The damage is extensive. Power lines have gone out. Houses are under water. Standing water is several meters deep with every walk. Another high tide is expected this afternoon.
Severe 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 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 get by. At the moment some people use canoes.’
One of the residents who ignored the order to evacuate and stay at their property said she does not regret the decision to stay.
“The wind was wild,” Karen Boss said. “My house rocked, we headed toward the ocean – the waves were extremely high.
“When the high tide came into the bay, the water overflowed the boardwalk.”
As of yesterday morning, rescuers had helped 14 people from the island, which is south of Long Island, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, communications director for Suffolk County.
Permanent damage: the coastline has been breached, dunes have flattened, beaches have been swept away and the coast has been eroded
The superstorm has devastated the east coast and four direct washovers have crashed over Fire Island.
The swell of the Atlantic Ocean covered the Great South Bay and slammed over 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 Commissioner Joe Williams said it appeared most of the beaches and dunes were gone.
Southampton councilor 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 strewn with rubble.
Much of the coastline has been severely eroded, according to news daybut may come back in the spring as part of a natural cycle.
Television images show the destruction on the coast of Fire Island
“This is probably the worst on my list in terms of the extent of 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, we had to send city personnel on search and rescue missions to take people to higher elevations.”
In the village of Mastic Beach on Brookhaven’s south shore, the air reeked of oil, as tanks overflowed as storm surges from homes in the flooded area of Narrow Bay. In Long Beach, sewage systems were overloaded and officials brought portable toilets to city residents.
Kings Point saw a storm surge of more than 14 feet, the third highest of all time.
Fire Island flood damage: Helicopter teams plan to rescue trapped residents
While authorities have yet to assess the damage caused by 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.
Chris Gardner, spokesman for the US Army Corps of Engineers, said local officials can call on 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 of ultimately removing the humans from the island.
AERIAL IMAGES: Fire Island Floods where 120 people are locked up