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Turner’s house burns as Sanders’ home floods (Live Blog)

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner's house was one of more than 100 in Breezy Point destroyed by a six-alarm fire. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Two elected officials from Queens rode out the surging tides and flames that assailed parts of the Rockaways, and after a congressman fled for his life, he now has no home to return to.

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) lived in the Breezy Point section of the Rockaways and gave his first-hand account of the inferno that eventually razed more than 80 homes in the area.

“I, along with many other Breezy Point residents, lost our homes last night and I am grateful that my family and I are safe after this destructive storm. I hope you will join me in lending a hand to those who were less fortunate and keep everyone impacted by this storm in your thoughts and prayers,” Turner said in a statement Tuesday after Superstorm Sandy crippled the entire city.

Turner and his wife had lived in their home for 32 years, but Monday night it was burned to the ground after an initial fire was whipped into a blaze by Sandy’s high winds. It burned for hours, Turner said in an interview with Fox News.

“At the very height of the storm, which was about 7:30 p.m., the water surge was such that emergency equipment couldn’t even get on the peninsula. So the fire — there was nothing anyone could do, it went unchecked for about 2 1/2 hours,” he said.

About 200 of the city’s Bravest battled the inferno and rescued residents by boat, but not before a section of the coastal enclave was left a smoldering pile of cinders.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) also rode out the storm in his Far Rockaway home. Though he strongly urged his constituents to evacuate, Sanders believes that government officials should not flee the scene of natural disasters.

At about 6:30 p.m. Monday, the councilman walked outside to see high winds and flooding in the streets.

“So that tree did fall down,” he said, staring into his driveway at his wife’s car crushed underneath.

Hours later, as the storm surge pushed sea waters to record levels, at least 4 feet of water was rushing through the streets, according to Sanders.

“Things have taken a turn for the worse,” he told TimesLedger Newspapers during the storm.

The basement and first floor of his house completely flooded and the power had gone out.

“I’m in a world of trouble,” he said, adding that the lack of electricity meant that pumps would not work to keep houses dry as the water rushed in and the wind howled in the darkness.

Indeed, elsewhere in the Rockaways at least four Queens residents drowned when they did not make it to higher ground or the second story of their homes.

At a news conference Wednesday, Sanders said he prepared by stockpiling meals similar to what he had consumed as a U.S. Marine, and kept a large ax with him in case he had to hack though the attic of his home.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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