Israel building underground facility in case of biotteror attacks

Officials with Israel's Rambam medical center in Haifa say they are taking part in a massive project to fortify the center against a direct conventional, biological or chemical attack.

Professor Karl Skorecki, director of medical and research development at the center, told that the 1,000 bed hospital came under several Katyusha rocket attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon during Israel's month-long war in the summer of 2006, and that the hospital management admits that they weren't prepared.

“This is not something we took into account," Skorecki told "In fact, the hospital itself could be vulnerable... that we were saving lives on the one hand, but at the same time, were vulnerable to loss of life because of deadly missile attacks."

Skorecki said Rambam is the country's largest and most comprehensive center of its kind in the north. He estimated that the center treats approximately 75,000 people annually, with about a half a million more as outpatients, including trauma treatment, oncology, and neurosurgery.

Rambam general-director and CEO Rafael Beyar told that the center consists of 45 medical units, nine institutes, six laboratories and 30 administrative and maintenance departments. He said it is also the Israeli Army's principal medical facility for the Northern Command.

“For 33 days, it was the major hospital in northern Israel that was, in itself, under attack, having to lead the treatment and therapy for all the casualties of the civilian population around us and at the same time, the casualties of the army that were brought to us from the fierce battles in Lebanon,” Beyar told

In order to plan for the worst-case scenario, the hospital chiefs have decided to build what they say will be the world's largest underground medical facility.

Over 70 workers have begun to pour some 7, 000 cubic meters of concrete for the slab of what would be Rambam' s protected emergency underground hospital and three-story underground parking lot, reports.

Rambam Department of Engineering Director Aryeh Berkovitz said that the scope of the pour was so massive that it temporarily monopolized all of the available concrete in central and northern Israel to fill the five acre, 20 meter deep pit. The construction team is planning another four such deliveries throughout the winter to fulfill the project's needs.

Once complete, the three floor parking lot will serve the center's 1,500 workers and visitors. In wartime or other emergencies, officials say that within 48 hours, the parking lot can be switched over to a comprehensive, airtight and fully-stocked 2,000 bed hospital, nestled eight meters below sea level. Officials said the underground hospital will be able to generate its own power and will have enough stores of medical supplies, oxygen and drinking water for up to three days, reports.