US coast rebuilt from superstorm is ripped by fire

SEASIDE PARK, New Jersey (AP) 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 amusement parks 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. It raged for eight hours and destroyed about five blocks of boardwalk.

"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."

Christie said Friday said the fire was 95 percent contained, but it could take days to extinguish "hot pockets" at the scene.

The governor said there were only minor injuries, including to three police officers who fell from a moving vehicle.

"I will not permit all the work we've done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night," Christie said.

Authorities said there was no immediate indication whether the fire was suspicious or accidental.

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.

Authorities began making tentative plans to rebuild the boardwalk.

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Associated Press writer Wayne Parry contributed.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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