NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A mass-evacuation was underway Wednesday night, among patients in the dark at Bellevue Hospital.
As CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported, all day Wednesday, workers and members of the National Guard worked to transport about 700 patients out.
The evacuation started on Tuesday, but that major evacuation commenced Wednesday. In the 11 p.m. hour, several dozen ambulances lined up on First Avenue, some of them with license plates from states as far away as Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana and Texas.
Dozens of yellow school buses also lined up to move patients if necessary.
The problem was 17 million gallons of floodwater that accumulated in the hospital basement, and took out all but one of the backup generators. That was not enough to power the entire facility.
“The post-storm damage to the hospital’s electrical and other systems is substantial,” said New York City Hospital System President Alan Aviles.
The extensive flooding left the hospital campus with dark rooms and hallways, no working hallways, no working elevators, and no ability to use necessary medical equipment.
“That damage was so extensive that we will be unable to adequately power this building – even with additional external emergency generators – for quite some time,” Aviles said.
Officials worked Wednesday to find beds for the patients, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Patients that did not require critical care were discharged.
Patients said the situation was growing dire.
“The toilets, they wouldn’t flush and there was no water,” patient Dennis Jiosne told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell.
The hospital made the decision not to keep patients in those conditions indefinitely.
Azalea Cruz decided to bring her mother, who was in hospice care, home from Bellevue.
“There’s no lights, no nothing, so we wanted to take her home because she’s uncomfortable without no light, no television. And there’s no water or anything like that,” Cruz told Haskell.
Cruz’s elderly mother had to walk down nine flights of stairs to leave the hospital.
For Joseph Stamatiades, the storm damage made a sad situation even sadder. On Wednesday, his elderly mother lost her lengthy battle with cancer.
“I slept over with her a few nights, and with the rain and the flooding and everything, so all the lights went out a few nights, and we were just working off of backup lights,” Stamatiades said. “It was a difficult time. The staff there was great, though. They did a really nice job.”
As of the 11 p.m. hour, 400 patients had been moved, and 300 more were on the move. The relocation should be done by tomorrow afternoon, Finch reported.
But the hospital and emergency room will be closed for at least two to three weeks, as repairs are undertaken.
On Monday night, rescuers and staff at New York University Langone Medical Center evacuated 300 patients after it lost generator power due to the storm.
Coney Island Hospital was also evacuated not long after the storm landed on the area.
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