NYU Langone Medical Center was evacuated late yesterday evening when the backup to its backup generator failed, leaving the hospital without power.
Nurses and doctors evacuated around 260 patients in the dark, carrying some down as many as 17 flights of stairs, CBS News reported.
Among the evacuees were 20 newborns, four of whom were connected to breathing tubes. “Each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby’s lungs,” CNN reported.
Photos of long lines of ambulances leaving the hospital showed up on Twitter around midnight.
The hospital’s basement, lower floors, and elevator shafts filled with 10 to 12 feet of water yesterday evening, according to senior Vice President Dr. Andrew Brotman, who spoke with CNN. When power went out, the hospital’s back up generators kicked in. But within 2 hours about 90% of that power went out again.
According to CBS, water flooding over the FDR drive took out not only the backup generator but the backup to the backup generator, which was located in a low, quickly-flooded floor.
About 1,000 nurses, doctors, medical students, police and firefighters worked to evacuate the hospital. CBS News’ Jonathan LaPook was inside, and filed this report of the staff’s incredible effort:
Many patients were too sick to walk down the narrow staircase to the lobby. They were painstakingly carried on plastic sleds – one by one – by teams of four to five people from as high up as the 17th floor.
At 12:33 pm today, ABC 7’s Rob McMillan tweeted that all 300 patients have been successfully transferred to other local hospitals. In a press conference this morning, Mayor Bloomberg announced that neither the NYU hospital nor Coney Island hospital, which was also evacuated, had suffered any casualties.
UPDATE [1:15pm]: NYU Hospital’s board of directors knew that the generators were “subpar and at risk” before the storm hit, according to a report from Bloomberg News.
Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, is a trustee of the hospital. He told Bloomberg Television that the backup generators were neither up-to-date nor well-placed, adding, “That’s all very well-known by the board of directors of NYU.” The hospital is in the middle of an effort to raise $3 billion for upgrades, according to Cohn.
UPDATE [2:20pm]: The storm liveblog at NY Daily News reports years of scientific research were lost when the power went out at NYU Hospital last night. The Smilow building on East 32nd St. lost power at 8:30pm, likely destroying “many precious reagents — special enzymes, antibodies, DNA strands — generated by scientists and stored at -80 degrees and -20 degrees.”
Thousands of mice used for cancer research, many of them genetically modified, drowned during a flood in the building. They were the product of research that “took years to produce,” reports the Daily News (see entry for 2:02pm).