Large, fortified hospital opens in Haifa

The Sammy Ofer Northern Regional Underground Emergency Hospital, the largest and most advanced underground hospital worldwide, has opened in Haifa, Israel, with the ability to protect its patients from chemical and biological weapons.

The 2,000 bed underground hospital, located at the Rambam Medical Center, is able to keep staff and patients safe even if rockets and missiles are hitting the ground dozens of meters above the facility. Previous missile attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah prompted the construction of the facility on the Rambam Campus. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, attacks on Israel forced hospitals to move essential operations underground, the Times of Israel reports.

During peace time, the underground structure can be used to park up to 1,400 vehicles. In times of war, however, the walls and floors include connections, power outlets, heaters, air conditioners, water and filtration systems, and anything else needed to move hospital operations underground. The process to convert the facility from a parking lot to a hospital is expected to take less than 48 hours. Several meters of concrete protect the facility from rocket attacks and chemical and biological weapons.

Sammy Ofer, a self-made Israeli multi-millionaire, donated almost $20 million for the construction of the facility. Ofer passed away in 2011.

"No man in Haifa's history has done as much for the strategic development of Haifa as Sammy Ofer did," Yona Yahav, the mayor of Haifa, said, according to the Times of Israel. "I was so happy that he was able to participate in the laying of the cornerstone for the hospital in 2008. Not everyone can take good intentions and turn them into reality, but Sammy did."