Rye Double Whammy: Flooding, and Putrid Stench

By Ida Siegal
|  Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011  |  Updated 9:38 PM EDT
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Flooding is only the start of problems for residents of one apartment building in Rye, NY. Ida Siegal reports.

Flooding is only the start of problems for residents of one apartment building in Rye, NY. Ida Siegal reports.

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In a Westchester apartment building, the resolution of one problem revealed quite another: just as the floodwaters of Irene were receding, an oil tank exploded, leaving behind thousands of gallons of oil and an unshakeable putrid stench.

It happened in an apartment building on Purchase Street in Rye, N.Y., where residents were already dealing with extensive damage. One tenant, Devon Pacheco, showed NBC New York his trashed belongings and the water-soaked basement apartment rendered unlivable by Irene's rainwater.

"I moved out here a couple years ago and basically everything that I had came with me -- and now most everything is gone," he said.

That's only half the story. Now he and his fellow building tenants are faced with the putrid  smell that's taken over after a home heating oil tank burst during flooding. More than 2,000 gallons of oil mixed in with the floodwater, effectively contaminating the apartment building.

All 99 apartments were evacuated, with good reason: "There was no way you could breathe up there," said an upstairs tenant who identified herself as Ivonne.

But it's left them in unhappy circumstances: "We need housing, we need help," said Barbara Beals, a tenant. "We need emergency assistance. There are children, mothers, elderly. Right now, I'm staying in a fleabag motel in Elmsford with my cat."

The health department said it will be a few weeks before people can get back inside, but tenants in 10 basement apartments could be out of their homes for months. Now, they say it's too dangerous to rent the basement apartments because the building has flooded before. Worse, this time, the exits were blocked and tenants had to escape through windows.

"If we were not there to take them out, they would have died down there," said Ivonne. "If this flood was at 2 in the morning, they would have been dead."

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