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Breezy Point: 'Whatever is not flooded is on fire'

New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, gives a brief update on a horrific fire, in the Breezy Point section of New York City's, that charred "more than 80 homes."

Updated at 1:35 p.m.: NEW YORK --  At least 80 homes were destroyed in the New York City borough of Queens in a six-alarm fire that raged overnight and into the daylight amid neck-deep floodwaters.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said firefighters contained the blaze at Breezy Point, Queens, by 11 a.m. on Tuesday, a full 12 hours after it was reported to the New York City Fire Department.

AP

Damage is seen Tuesday after a fire in Breezy Point, Queens.

The fire erupted at the peak of the storm in a Zone A area, which the New York City Office of Emergency Management declared to be the highest risk of flooding from Superstorm Sandy’s surge.

FDNY spokesperson Michael Parrella told NBC News that nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene by 5 a.m. Tuesday, battling high winds that made the flames difficult to knock down.

“The winds were just devastating, blowing from one building to the next one,” Bloomberg said.

With floodwater from the storm filling the street, firefighters had to use a boat to make rescues, the Associated Press reported. Fire department officials said about 25 people were trapped in the upstairs unit of one apartment, and the two-story home next door was ablaze and setting fire to the apartment’s roof. Firefighters climbed an awning to rescue the trapped people and took them downstairs to a boat in the street.


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Reuters

Residents stand among homes in Breezy Point, Queens, Tuesday devastated by a fire and the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

The six-alarm blaze ravaged through several blocks and destroyed more than 80 buildings, Parrella said, but there were pockets still smoldering Tuesday morning.

City officials said it appeared most of the area was evacuated prior to the fire, and no serious injuries were reported, NBCNewYork.com reported.

New York State Assembly member Phillip Goldfeder, who represents the district that includes Breezy Point, said the small coastal area, which contains about 3,500 homes, sustained “immeasurable damage” from the storm.

Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Superstorm Sandy made landfall Monday evening on a destructive and deadly path across the Northeast.

“In Breezy Point, whatever is not flooded is on fire,” Goldfeder told NBC News. "There are literally rows of older, bungalow-style houses, one on top of the other, and for a fire, this is the worst-case scenario. The strong winds were spreading and fanning the flames at the same time as the flooding.”

“No one could respond for a while, and when they did, they did not have anywhere near close to the resources they needed,” Goldfeder said, adding that three area volunteer fire departments were working alongside the FDNY through the night to contain the blaze.

One firefighter sustained minor injuries and was transported to an area hospital, Parrella said.

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Frank Franklin Ii / AP

A fire that ravaged through the flooded Breezy Point neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens destroyed at least 80 homes.

Emergency crews began canvassing the area at dawn Tuesday to make sure no one was trapped in any of the gutted homes, NBCNewYork.com reported. Goldfeder said residents of the impacted areas were still trying to make their way out of the wreckage by Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re not in recovery mode yet,” Goldfeder said. “Some residents are still in harm’s way, some are in slightly better shape, but everybody’s in a really bad place right now.”

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, Parrella said.

The Breezy Point neighborhood, which sits on the western edge of the Rockaway peninsula, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, was historically a summer get-away for many residents of New York. Now, Goldfeder said, about 80 percent of its residents live there year-round.

Reports of the fire came just hours before President Barack Obama signed a major disaster declaration for New York and Long Island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, enabling federal aid to assist with storm recovery efforts.

About 170 firefighters were called to the scene in Breezy Point, Queens, where at least 50 homes have caught fire. MSNBC's Chris Jansing reports.

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