The first floor of my mother’s house was destroyed and now reeks of mildew. The tenant there is living upstairs on my mom’s floor, with no power or heat. In the Great Kills area of the island is my Aunt Barbara’s house. And on the street where she lives is now an entire marina of boats. Large luxury fishing boats have crushed into houses and block intersections. Aunt Barbara and her family are living on a generator but are running out of gas. On Halloween night, her son Fred was almost arrested for siphoning gas from a huge boat on their street. My brother and I drove to Woodbridge, N.J., and waited almost three hours in line to buy gas for them.
Four more bodies were discovered on Coney Island yesterday and several others on Staten Island, bringing the death toll from Hurricane Sandy to 41 (up from 34 yesterday) according to the NYPD press office. 19 of those deaths occurred on Staten Island, where the search for victims continues today. Yesterday investigators recovered the bodies of two young boys who were ripped from their mother’s arms in the surging flood waters on Monday night [Link], and rescuers have been knocking on doors in thousands of buildings.
But they’ve stopped short of breaking doors down to search. There could be more to come—file this among the other unsubstantiated rumors that have been swirling in Sandy’s wake, but a longtime Staten Island resident tells us, “They found about 30 more bodies when we were there yesterday, but won’t release until they have been identified. The NYC medical examiners were coming in by the bus loads. They also found bodies that have nothing to do with Sandy (mob hits, no joke).”
That report doesn’t include two additional bodies found today. Christina Boyle tells the story of another fatal victim, Diane Norris’ 89-year-old mother, who died in her arms as their home was overcome by the sea:
As the panicked screams rang out from the Norris home, Will Ramirez had climbed into a neighbor’s loft space in the adjacent building to save himself from the fast-rising water. He could only listen, helplessly. “They were screaming all night,” Ramirez, 36, said. “And I was screaming to hold on. I couldn’t get to her.”
By 8 a.m. the waters had subsided enough to enable Ramirez to escape from his refuge and he and another neighborhood friend rushed to the aid of the two women. They hoisted Norris onto their shoulders and carried her to safety. There was nothing they could do for her mother.
The heroic efforts of helicopter cops saved many, however:
Phillip Bump explains one of the reasons the borough is still reeling:
Staten Island’s main problem is the same thing that its residents find so appealing: It’s hard to get to. There are four bridges to the island, including the Verrazano Narrows, which is the island’s only physical connection to the rest of the city. Otherwise, the only way on or off is by boat.
But the Staten Island Ferry did begin operating today. In the Midland Beach neighborhood, Christopher Robbins talked to Alfredo Zapata, whose home was besieged by 11-foot waters and who, like many on the island, wants to know where the government is:
Zapata said his boss told him to take as much time off as he needed, and that much of it will be spent waiting for help. “I’m waiting for the insurance company to come, and I’m waiting for FEMA to come, but nobody’s come.” An ATV pulling a wagon full of Homeland Security Urban Rescue Task Force members rolled by, and Zapata waved. “Except for the rescuers, nobody’s come. I am a citizen of this country, I pay my taxes on time every single year, and this is their response?”
NBC’s Ann Curry has another gut-wrenching report. A long, eerie video of residents rescuing their relatives is here. Buzzfeed has a gallery of the devastation. Anyone who wants to help with relief efforts can go here or here. There is also a Facebook page aggregating news and relief plans.
(Graphic by Brady MacDonald and Matt Moody, via TPM)