NPR Story
10:20 am
Tue October 30, 2012

Fire Destroys Homes In Queens Neighborhood

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Earlier this morning, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie boarded a State Police helicopter and had a look from overhead at the communities by the Jersey shore, towns near the place where the center of Hurricane Sandy hit land last night.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Houses are moved off of their foundations. There are houses in the middle of Route 35. The amusement pier at Seaside Park is essentially half washed out. The second pier, the more southerly pier is also significantly damaged and some of those amusements are not in the ocean. The level of devastation at the Jersey shore in unthinkable.

INSKEEP: Let's take a quick survey now of some of the spots along the coast. Immense flooding has affected the subways in New York City. Seven tunnels beneath the East River flooded. In Queens, part of New York City, power failed and fires spread. Terence Cullen, a reporter with the Queens Courier Newspapers has been watching that. Mr. Cullen is on the line. What have you seen?

TERENCE CULLEN: Down here right now on (unintelligible) Boulevard, which is a main commercial (unintelligible) devastated. I was down here last night, and (unintelligible) around eight o'clock.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

CULLEN: When one of the (unintelligible) started to flood, so there still (unintelligible) at that point. I'm with another Courier reporter right now, Maggie, and this is a homeowner, who - her entire house went up in flames.

INSKEEP: Let me just mention, Mr. Cullen, let me interrupt you. It's very difficult to understand the cell phone, so I'm going to repeat a little bit of what you said. You mentioned that there was flooding last night, that stores and restaurants were overcome. You also saw fires?

CULLEN: We (unintelligible) fires, spoke to a homeowner whose house went on fire last night.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

CULLEN: And - just around nine o'clock, and all she could do was watch it, you know, burn down.

INSKEEP: All they could do it watch it burn down. OK. Thanks very much, Mr. Cullen. Let's continue now onto Doreen Maag. She's a freelance TV producer. We found her just across the Hudson River from New York City in Hoboken, New Jersey, a low-lying port city. Ms. Maag has been walking around this morning, and what have you seen?

DOREEN MAAG: Well, as soon as we left our apartment, at first it looked like it was - our street was just wet, and then we went to the end of our block, and it's rivers. Like all the side streets are rivers. Hoboken is like a valley, and the - Willow Street floods greatly and it pushes out from there. So it rises with the same level as the river.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

MAAG: As we were walking out, every single basement apartment - all the buildings here have basement - like sublevel apartments, and the water filled it all the way to the door handle, so all of those apartments are completely flooded. Our neighbor, she - her backyard was fine around nine o'clock last night. Her son took the dog out, and he told us on our way back, that within 15 minutes it filled up and it's four feet deep.

INSKEEP: Hmm.

MAAG: So it's pretty devastating. People are just getting out of their apartments and walking around. There's garbage all through the streets and people are just kind of waiting around. We have family a couple blocks away who have to leave their building now because of a gas leak.

INSKEEP: Hmm.

MAAG: So the thing is, is people aren't really able - they have a vehicle, but they can't really get out because of the water.

INSKEEP: Can I just mention, I have some familiarity with the geography of Hoboken. When you say Willow Street, that is a street that is quite some blocks from the waterfront. If that is flooded, a lot of Hoboken, New Jersey is flooded this morning, or was flooded overnight.

MAAG: Yeah, absolutely. It's a lower-lying part. It's odd. It's like there's the part up next to the river, and then there's Willow which is the lower level, and it fills up from the middle and pushes out in addition to pushing in from the river.

INSKEEP: You mentioned a gas leak, that's not good. Does anybody have power this morning?

MAAG: Not that I know of. Anyone I've heard of, thank goodness for social media because that's the only way I'm hearing about people and via text messaging. We have cell service, but no one seems to have any power, which is kind of good because there's water everywhere, and there's some power lines down, and people are - some people are walking through the water which I don't think is a good idea.

INSKEEP: Feels a little unsafe. Feels a little unsafe. People have supplies there, very briefly?

MAAG: Yes. Yes. It seems like for the most part. A lot of people did evacuate early enough, so that was good. But everyone that we've been talking to actually seems to be in relatively good spirits for the most part, considering. No one seems desperate. Everyone seems to have what they need, water and food.

INSKEEP: OK.

MAAG: Again, this is just the few people that we've talked to within our block.

INSKEEP: OK.

MAAG: We can't really go beyond our block.

INSKEEP: All right. I've got to - got to stop you there, but Doreen Maag, thanks very much for the insight, and take care of yourself today.

MAAG: All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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