6 homes catch fire in Long Beach as Sandy affects city's water, sewer system

Chopper 12 over Long Beach post-Sandy

Six homes burned in the Canals neighborhood of Long Beach during Sandy.

The cause of the fires on Farrell and Barnes streets at the intersections with East Pine Street is under investigation, said City Manager Jack Schnirman. All of the residents were evacuated and none seriously injured, he said.

Neighbors reported flames jumping from the start of the fire on Farrell Street to Barnes Street, a block west in the area of homes built close together. Only chimneys were left standing.


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Residents of the neighborhood on Tuesday used generators to pump water out of basements and first floors.

Long Beach has "suffered crippling flooding and damage," Schnirman said Tuesday. "Recovery efforts are being coordinated with all levels of government. No resource will be spared."

The most pressing issue, he said, is the lack of water and sewer services.

There is no water and no sewer; your toilets and sink will not work," he told residents. "At this time, if you have any water coming from your faucet, it is not safe to drink or use for cooking unless boiled."

The Long Island Water public suppliers also issued a statement saying drinking water was not safe to drink in Long Beach and that water should be boiled first before any type of use or drinking.

City officials are bringing in 500 portable toilets for residents to use and offering transportation from City Hall to a shelter at Nassau Community College. Anyone leaving Long Beach will not be allowed back into the city until it is safe, Schnirman said.

"The top priority is not electricity, it is water and sewer," he said. "We have crews on it right now."

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said 15,000 to 20,000 people in the city did not obey mandatory evacuation orders. He urged the residents to leave and stay with friends or in one of several Red Cross shelters open in the area. Residents are being allowed to go back and forth to get belongings, check on property, Mangano said.

The city's most damaged areas were on the bay side of the West End and along the canals, Schnirman said.

Long Beach City police drove through neighborhoods Tuesday morning, using the cruisers' loudspeakers to tell people that water and sewer services were shut down and portable toilets will be brought in.

Mangano said in a news conference, "After the storm there is significant damage working from the boardwalk into the center of town. There are literally hundreds of disabled vehicles that floated into the main streets."

Floodwaters roared through the barrier island city, flooding homes and businesses from the west end to the east. Six to 8 inches of sand piled up in parking lots.

The popular boardwalk bucked in many places, ramps leading to the beach were destroyed and the iconic lifeguard station is gone. The first floor of just about every apartment building lining the boardwalk had been flooded.

Kathleen Smyth, 50, decided to ride out the storm with her husband and 16-year-old daughter. At 9 p.m. Monday night, she said, they heard screams coming from the street and ran outside. "Help, help, someone help us," Smyth reported hearing. Outside, a couple in their 30s had become caught in debris floating in the street. The man's feet were tangled in what looked like some sort of security tape that pulled the couple down, Smyth said.

Smyth said her family got the couple out of the street and into their house, where they all spent the night on the second floor.

Assessing the flood damage Tuesday morning, Smyth recalled her mother's comments about her childhood home in the Bronx burning down. "This is an inconvenience, not a tragedy," Smyth recalled her mother saying.

"You know, nobody's dead," Smyth added. "We'll get through this."

Among those leaving for the college around noon Tuesday was Vera Taylor, 64, a nursing aide who said she has lived in the city for 40 years.

"I was scared, I was frightened last night, but I didn't panic," Taylor said, adding that she had 3 inches of water on the first floor of her apartment. "I don't feel safe any more. I'm really frightened."

Robert Hitchens, 63, said as he surveyed the damage outside his condo building on West Broadway. He and his wife, Maria, 61, and two grown children who live elsewhere in the city, had decided not to evacuate.

"I'm thankful no one in my family was hurt," Hitchens said. "We are all safe. But it's going to take months to clean up this mess."

With Emily C. Dooley and the Associated Press

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