A seaside fire that devoured a New Jersey boardwalk rebuilt after it was devastated by Superstorm Sandy has destroyed more than 50 local businesses.
The fire broke out in the Seaside Park and Seaside Heights sections of the boardwalk and caused millions of dollars in damage. Seaside Heights is used in the MTV series Jersey Shore.
Television footage showed a vast pillar of black smoke billowing in 40mph winds. An investigation into the fire, which started in an ice cream shop in Seaside Park, has been opened. Authorities said they have no indication on whether it was suspicious or accidental.
"It's horrible," Connie Hawkins, a Sandy victim, told the Asbury Park Press.
Utilities were cut off by the blaze and the Route 37 bridge was closed. Governor Chris Christie said the devastation caused him to want to "throw up".
"It has been a long and emotional day for all of us here at Maruca's Pizza," read a Facebook post from a Seaside Heights boardwalk pizzeria. "I am very sad to notify everyone that our building has been damaged and potentially destroyed by the fire."
Witness Jennifer Katz said: "It's devastating. All the progress that we made from Sandy is completely gone."
Almost all businesses along the boardwalk were destroyed. No injuries were reported.
"It's devastating; I've been crying all afternoon," said Shirley Kreszl, who has rented a summer home in Seaside Park every year for decades. "Haven't we been hit enough? We try to rebuild and just when we think we saved a little bit of our town, this happens. It's just not fair."
Councilwoman Nancy Koury said the flames jumped Ocean Avenue, the oceanfront street, and set fire to several houses but the fires were quickly extinguished.