Damaged Joplin hospital almost the only building left standing in area
Officials say St. John's Regional Medical Center took a direct hit when a tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday night.
May 23rd, 2011
04:15 PM ET

Damaged Joplin hospital almost the only building left standing in area

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) - It probably was a typical Sunday night at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri - patients watching television, perhaps, or eating their dinners.

But the evening wound up as anything but typical, as the nine-story building took what officials said was a direct hit from a tornado. The twister turned a place where the injured typically would seek treatment and refuge into a scene of chaos and devastation.

Windows were blown out, gurneys tossed up to five blocks away, and 183 patients and about 200 staffers were evacuated. X-rays from St. John's reportedly were found in driveways in Dade County, Missouri, about 70 miles away.

The building in southwest Joplin stood empty Monday morning, looking as if it had been bombed. Mangled cars had been tossed about the parking lot and strewn in front of the emergency room entrance. The hospital's medical helicopter lay some distance away from its landing pad, heavily damaged.

A statue of a cross out front appeared to be the only thing left undamaged. However, the hospital was very nearly the only building left standing, as the nearby area was flattened by the twister.

CNN iReporter Zach Tusinger, 26, a Joplin attorney, said his aunt and uncle, who lived five blocks from the hospital, were killed.

"My aunt was a pretty avid Facebooker, and she posted about the time I was taking the picture," he said of his iReport. "She posted, 'Oh my God' on Facebook. It's crazy because those are her last words."

Hospital officials swung into action almost immediately after the tornado struck, attempting to get patients to safety and setting up triage centers in tents outside.

The most critical patients were taken to Freeman Health System hospital, about two miles east. Patients who were able to walk were taken to Memorial Hall, a community building in Joplin, where a makeshift facility was set up. Still others were taken to a Catholic high school, at least temporarily, said Miranda Lewis, a spokeswoman for St. John's.

And more were taken to other Mercy Health System hospitals in the region, company CEO and President Lynn Britton said.

St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, about 70 miles east of Joplin, had received 58 people as of about 10 a.m. CT Monday, spokeswoman Lisa Cox said. Of those, 17 were patients from St. John's in Joplin, she said, and the others had storm-related injuries. "They're still coming," she said.

Efforts to contact Freeman Health System hospital were unsuccessful, as calls to Joplin elicited only a busy signal Monday.

There was no information on whether anyone was injured or killed when the tornado struck the hospital.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Weather
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