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Staten Island fatalities from Sandy at 14

Residents examine the damage the day after Superstorm

Residents examine the damage the day after Superstorm Sandy came ashore. (Oct. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: CS Muncy

Search-and-rescue workers waded Wednesday through still-flooded areas of Staten Island for missing residents, including two young boys who were swept from their mother's arms in the wind and gushing waters from superstorm Sandy.

At least 14 bodies have been discovered in New York City's least populous borough -- half of the city's overall toll of 28 storm-related deaths so far.

A police officer in an airboat trawled a marsh Wednesday searching for two boys, ages 2 and 4, who slipped from their mother's hands Monday night as water rushed in and stalled their Ford Explorer while they tried to reach the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, said NYPD Deputy Chief William Aubrey.

As they tried to escape the vehicle, the 4-year-old boy was swept into the marsh in Staten Island's South Beach neighborhood. Then the 2-year-old was ripped from his mother's arms and carried off by the current, police said. The mother survived.

Officers dived in scuba gear and a heat-detecting NYPD helicopter circled above. A child's Croc shoe was dredged from the muck, and officers huddled around it. But there was no sign of the boys.

"It's difficult because there are areas where the mud is five feet deep," said Aubrey. "It's like quicksand."

According to police, at least two other occupied sport utility vehicles were swept into the same patch of marsh behind the waterfront Father Capodanno Boulevard.

At least two of Staten Island's dead were recovered in the Midland Beach area, where water remained knee-deep Wednesday night. A medical examiner's semi truck circled the neighborhood Wednesday.

Jordan Harrell, 26, waded along Hunter Avenue carrying plastic bags full of clothes, saying he was going to stay with his aunt in a drier area.

"I didn't have a chance to bring anything when I evacuated before," he said. "When I left, the water was gushing down the block and I got out just in time."

Resident Fahad Mughal, 27, said he heard screams for help in his backyard during the storm and found a man clinging to the other side of his fence after clambering from his marooned vehicle.

Mughal helped the man over the fence and into his house.

A few hundred feet away, two Russian reporters had to abandon their own vehicle after they stopped to take video of the storm. They were rescued by a resident, Lance Sniadowski, who put one of them on his back, according to neighbors.

"It all happened within 15 minutes," said one of the witnesses, Sergui Morzor. "I was trying not to watch it. I was very scared."

New York Police Department records citywide include victims ranging from an unidentified 13-year-old girl found dead on the lawn of her home in Staten Island to an 85-year-old man found face down in his Brooklyn home by a neighbor.

Of the 28 city victims overall, 18 apparently drowned and three were crushed by trees. One elderly Manhattan man died from cardiac arrest after his oxygen tank failed when he lost power, while a 23-year-old Queens woman died after she stepped on a downed electrical cable, said police.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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