NEW ORLEANS -- The weeds are growing tall at the old hospital at the corner of North Jefferson Davis and Bienville streets. It has been closed since Katrina, but not empty.

Vandals, the homeless, and pranksters routinely enter the structure. As soon as the fence is repaired, new holes are ripped open.

Once lives were saved here in the hospital named Mercy. Now it is a monument to some of the most extensive vandalism since Katrina. Instruments still cling to the walls of the old emergency room, but vandals have destroyed everything they could, carpeting the floors with papers and debris.

Upstairs bed frames and furniture can still be found in what were patient rooms, but it looks like a bomb was set off here. Vandals seeking anything of value, like copper wiring and pipes, have pulled down the ceilings, and even torn large holes in the walls. There is debris everywhere, including evidence of places where fires were started inside the hospital, and some of the old mattresses are now used by the homeless.

'Both of my sisters were born at this hospital, and it is sad for me to see it in this state, and think about my mother giving birth in here,' said neighbor Rudy Rasmussen. 'I get sentimental.'

Neighboring home and business owners can't see the debris from the outside, but they do pass this flooded loading ramp daily, and that led to e-mail to the Action Line.

'I can't get used to that standing water in the basement of Mercy, the old Mercy hospital,' said neighboring business owner Jay Nix. 'I would like to see it drained.'

'I remember being a child, and I would think that something like this was very fascinating,' said Rasmussen. 'It's scary for me to think that a child could get in there, and be hurt, or drown.'

Minnows and turtles swim in water estimated to be 3 to 5 feet deep that floods not only the ramp, but the hospital basement as well.

'We don't know how big that basement is,' Nix said, 'but I would bet that it is a half a square block of standing water.'

'It's sad, and its frustrating, and also I think about mosquitoes,' said Rasmussen.

Among the agencies that I contacted was the New Orleans Fire Department, and firefighters took an immediate interest in this situation, and within 24 hours, they were on the scene, and ready to go to work.

'Given the opportunity to mitigate a situation like this, especially when you have life safety hazards, we're gonna take advantage, and do what we can as soon as possible,' said fire department spokesman Edwin Holmes.

And the old hospital has a new future. It is about to be sold, and the new owners plan to gut it, and restore it as a health care property.

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