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Huge fire in Sandy's wake destroys dozens of NYC homes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A huge fire that erupted as Sandy ripped through New York City with near-hurricane force winds on Monday night destroyed dozens of homes in one of the city's most remote neighborhoods, officials said.

The neighborhood, Breezy Point in the borough of Queens, had been extensively flooded by Sandy's record storm surge, and firefighters were hampered in their efforts to bring the blaze under control, a spokesman for the New York Fire Department said.

No casualties were immediately reported and the cause of the fire was under investigation.

A tweet from the FDNY's official Twitter feed said 50 or more homes were destroyed in the fire. The fire still was not under control by 5 a.m. (0900 GMT), the department said.

Local television showed firefighters wading through waist-deep water to get to the massive fire. Some used inflatable boats to reach it.

Breezy Point is a private beach community in the Rockaway area, a narrow spit of land barely above sea level that thrusts into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of John F. Kennedy International Airport.

It was one of a number of New York City neighborhoods that had been under a mandatory evacuation order as Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, approached from the southeast.

According to a report from WABC-TV in New York, dozens of residents chose not to obey the evacuation order and as many as 40 had to be rescued by firefighters from homes in the neighborhood as the fire approached, driven by 70 mph (112 kmh) winds. The NYFD spokesman could not verify the television station's report of rescues.

(Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Bill Trott)

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