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Sandy prompts harrowing NYC hospital evacuation


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The scene was reminiscent of hospital evacuations in New Orleans after Katrina, with patients being carried down stairs on stretchers because elevators were out, and nurses squeezing oxygen bags for them because of lack of power to run breathing machines.

The difference is that in New Orleans, patients were trapped in flooded hospitals; in New York, dozens of ambulances could get through to move patients to safety.

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The hospital blamed the severity of Sandy and higher-than-expected storm surge that flooded its basement but had little else to say beyond a short statement emailed to reporters after the evacuation was complete.

"At this time, we are focusing on assessing the full extent of the storm’s impact on all of our patient care, research and education facilities," the statement said.

Most of the power outages in lower Manhattan, where Tisch is located, were due to an explosion at an electrical substation, Consolidated Edison said. It wasn’t clear whether flooding or flying debris caused the explosion, said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Con Edison.

At NYU, sporadic telephone service made it difficult for the hospital to notify relatives where patients were taken. It relied instead on receiving hospitals to notify families.

Until the generators failed, Chu considered herself and her new baby out of harm’s way. By the time she was evacuated, the streets were eerily silent and the night sky lit up by emergency lights of waiting ambulances.

"My son will appreciate this someday," she said.

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Marchione, AP’s chief medical writer, reported from Milwaukee.


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