Immigrants from Eastern Europe have flocked to Manville, and its Polish population is one of the state’s largest: One downtown church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, holds two Polish Masses on Sunday, and there are two delis that sell Eastern European food like pierogies and stuffed cabbage. Immigrants from Central and South America have made Manville more diverse.
Mauro Rojas and Karla Licano, who are from Costa Rica, moved to Manville two years ago. They looked at 30 houses but bought the one on Boesel Avenue, in the Lost Valley. The house was near a vast park and close to a river, and had a backyard with a big porch and an aboveground pool. It was perfect for a family with a young daughter and dog.
The couple had heard that the house had a 1 percent chance of flooding, and even knew that several surrounding lots were empty because the government had bought and demolished flood-prone homes. They took a chance. But the night the floodwaters rose, they saw their dream house — and all of the items in it — disappear.
When water began to leak into their first floor from the basement and front door, Mr. Rojas, who runs a painting business, grabbed a ladder and led his family, including their Beagle mix, to the roof.
Their daughter, Elena, snuggled into her blanket. The dog shook. In tears and with disbelief, the family watched their 1,200-gallon pool rise from the ground, lifted by the water below it.
In the morning, after climbing into a rescuer’s boat, Elena began to weep when she saw the 27 rainbow-colored bags she and her mother had filled with lighted eyeglasses, hair bows, chocolates and other treats the night before. They were floating down the street. It was her sixth birthday.
“She said, ‘Mom, my birthday bags! No!’ and my heart broke,” Ms. Licano, a secretary, said on Tuesday as she stood crying on a muddied floor.