Israel this month began construction of the world’s largest underground emergency medical center in the norther port city of Haifa.
For 36 straight hours rotating construction crews poured an enormous amount of cement to form the base of the new structure. According to Aryeh Berkovitz, the director of the Department of Engineering at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, so much equipment and resources were diverted to the effort that no concrete was poured anywhere in northern or central Israel for two days after.
The new facility, which is expected to be completed in May 2012, will during times of peace act as a parking garage for the 1,500 employees at the existing Rambam Hospital. In the event of an attack, the structure can be rapidly transformed into a 2,000-bed hospital capable of withstanding conventional, biological or chemical attacks.
The need for such a facility became clear during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when Rambam and other hospitals in northern Israel were targeted repeatedly by Hizballah missiles.
In addition to the danger posed by Hizballah’s short and medium-range conventional missiles, Israel knows that in the event of a more large-scale war, Hizballah’s sponsors in Syria will not hesitate to launch biological or chemical warheads at Israeli population centers. Syria maintains one of the largest non-conventional arsenals in the region, and some Israeli officials fear those weapons may be transfered to Hizballah.