For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year, two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:
Storm warnings that work — a lesson from Sandy
Learning to shout after the Fukushima disaster
Disaster Candy in Japan
When the high ground isn’t high enough
Signs of commerce return to “The Town That Disappeared”
Earthquake-scarred Sichuan village reimagined as tourist hub, memorial
A panda baby boom, five years after Sichuan earthquake
Breezy Point, Queens, New York:
Of all the New York oceanfront communities that Sandy devastated, Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula took some of the hardest blows. Breezy Point, a peninsula on the southern shores of New York City, suffered not just from rain and flooding from the storm surge, but also a fast-moving fire that destroyed 125 homes. The storm knocked down another 230. One year later, the neighborhood is struggling with the aftermath and hard questions about how sustainable it will be after the rebuilding.
On some streets, only the concrete foundations of houses remain. Others are completely gone, leaving nothing but weedy vacant lots in their place. This month, construction crews blanketed the neighborhood as builders put together new structures where the old one-story bungalows used to be.
Mike Schramm, editor of The Rockaway Point newspaper and a volunteer firefighter, recalled for a group of visiting reporters the hellish scene where firefighters were kept from the flames because the burning homes were surrounded by water four feet deep. “It was terrible to just watch it go,” Schramm told the visiting journalists studying New York’s recovery efforts.