Post-Sandy conditions on Staten Island are both horrific and tragically underreported-many have died in mass flooding, either unwilling or unable to evacuate in time. Now we're getting reports that the casualties have become so bad that Egbert Intermediate School near Midland Beach has been turned into a makeshift overflow morgue.
We spoke with one displaced couple who relayed information they'd received from former neighbors, claiming that flooding deaths have been widely underestimated: "several people have been able to see them pulling out bodies" from flooded homes, our sources say, with multiple local tweeters corroborating the use of Egbert as body storage facility. One resident said her neighbor-a former NYPD officer-estimated as many as 60 unidentified bodies are being stored at the school, and that she "personally witnessed 11 bodies on Tuesday morning being removed from Oakwood beach area."
Another resident took to Reddit with more purported details: "Its 19 as of last night. My father is a police captain in the NYPD, that was the latest from him. Could be more at this point, but 200 does seem like a stretch."
"Brother's neighbor is a deputy near LBI, NJ. He says the death toll is going to go up. Said he's seen a number of bodies floating," chimed in another. ABC says at least 19 are dead in the borough-and it's worth remembering that number could spike once authorities go door to door, as was the case in New Orleans post-Katrina.
The area, we're told, was already prone to flooding due to a shoddy drainage system that clogs up under even regular rainfall-so with a hurricane, the seas were pushed straight up homes.
We're waiting to hear back from the New York City Office of Emergency Management for more details, but an Army National Guard spokesperson confirmed that the morgue does exist-how bad the body count is remains murky. Using a government building like this during emergency conditions isn't unusual, but could indicate this thing is much worse than it seems in some corners of the country.
Update: John Annese, reporter with the Staten Island Advance, provides some evidence that the school morgue might be a rumor and nothing more:
We sent out a reporter today – he spoke to the school's principal, who said there was no morgue. Similarly, Margie Feinberg, the spokeswoman for the city Department of Education said no morgue is there.
Our reporter passed the school multiple times, found no police, medical examiner, ambulances, military, no emergency vehicles at all around the school. The principal said the school doesn't even have power.
The National Guard might just be confused.
Update 2: We've received a big batch of images from the devastation. Note the Nat'l Guard with the body bag. Awful.