Two New Jersey seaside towns, ripped apart last year by a superstorm and newly rebuilt, woke up Friday to the aftermath of a new nightmare — a raging fire that destroyed it all again.
“I feel like I want to throw up,” the state’s famously unscripted governor, Chris Christie, said Thursday after racing to the scene.
The Jersey shore is famous for Bruce Springsteen, crowded boardwalks and some of the most praised beaches on the U.S. East Coast. The communities depend on summer tourism.
Superstorm Sandy tore up the coast in late 2012, and the communities raced to prepare for business this summer. Seaside Heights, whose damaged roller coaster became a defining image of the storm, rushed to reconstruct its boardwalk in time for a May visit by Britain’s Prince Harry. It finished with only hours to spare.
But on Thursday, the fire that started near an ice cream shop spread to destroy 50 local businesses and caused millions of dollars in damage. There was no word on any serious injuries.
“There’s not much left” in the affected areas, said Brian Gabriel, Ocean County’s fire coordinator. “It looks like a couple of bombs went off. It’s pretty much complete devastation.”
Authorities said the fire that raged for eight hours had destroyed about five blocks of boardwalk. They said there was no immediate indication whether the fire was suspicious or accidental.
“Haven’t we been hit enough?” says Shirley Kreszl, who has rented a summer home in Seaside Park for decades.
Seaside Park borough Councilwoman Nancy Koury said local business owners worked hard to recover from Sandy’s devastation, and “now it’s all gone.”
Firefighters continued to pour water on the hot spots of the smoking ruins Friday.
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