Agence France-Presse

Fire destroys recently rebuilt New Jersey boardwalk (VIDEO)


People walk by the boardwalk at Seaside Heights on the first weekend of Jersey Shore beaches re-opening to the public on May 27, 2013 in Seaside Heights, NJ.


Kena Betancur

A massive fire consumed much of the Seaside Heights boardwalk area in New Jersey late Thursday, affecting or destroying 50 businesses and horrifying locals who had only just seen the popular tourist site rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy damage. 

The fire appears to have begun at the Kohr's Frozen Custard shop near the Seaside Heights boardwalk around 2:05 pm, and swiftly spread to nearby structures. 

Powerful winds of up to 40 mph whipped in from the ocean, the Wall Street Journal reported, making conditions extremely difficult for already-exhausted firefighters, some of whom incurred minor injuries. 

Public works crews managed to stop the progress of the blaze by ripping out 25 feet of boardwalk to starve the fire of fuel, The New York Times said, and then replaced the empty areas with sand dunes. Two holes in the newly rebuilt boardwalk were ultimately required. 

More from GlobalPost: Timeline: Tracking Hurricane Sandy's fury 

“I feel like I want to throw up,” New Jersey governor Chris Christie told CBS New York. “After all the effort and time and resources that we’ve put in to help the folks of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights rebuild. … It’s just unthinkable.”

A cause remains under investigation, although witnesses told CBS they heard "pops" coming from underneath the boardwalk, and might have seen wires sparking.

Kohr's employees fled the building to see smoke rising from just outside their store.

"I can't believe this is happening," borough councilwoman Nancy Koury told the Associated Press. "Our small business people went through so much in the storm to get ready for summer and stay open all summer, and now it's all gone. I just can't believe it."

The popular Seaside Heights and Seaside Park areas comprise part of the Jersey Shore, a popular destination for East Coast residents — and recently made infamous by the MTV reality television show of the same name. 

The boardwalk had been rebuilt after serious Hurricane Sandy damage, harm estimated to have cost $37 million. It was re-opened in time for Memorial Day. 

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