JOPLIN (AP) - Demolition has begun on a Joplin hospital that took a direct hit from a deadly May 22 tornado.
The Joplin Globe reported that more than 1,000 people turned out Sunday for a ceremony at the shell of the once-bustling St. John's Regional Medical Center. Speakers, including clergy and former workers, talked about the history of the hospital before a wrecking ball ceremonially smacked the side of the building to mark the beginning of the demolition.
From there, the crowd travelled along a tornado-ravaged street, passing vacant lots and storm-scarred trees, to the site of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new hospital. The new facility, which will be known as Mercy Hospital Joplin, is being built at a site three miles away. The new 825,000-square-foot hospital will eventually have 300 beds and is scheduled to open in 2015, officials said.
The devastating tornado last May cut a wide path through Joplin and hit St. John's hospital particularly hard. The force of the EF-5 tornado's 200 mph winds reportedly shifted the building 4 inches off its foundation, blew out virtually every window, and killed and injured several people inside.
For now, St. John's is operating out of a temporary space until the new facility is operational.