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8 die at nursing home where Irma knocked out power

  • Staff members at Westwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., load Hurricane Irma evacuees onto a bus on Wednesday. ap photo

  • Military personnel load water and supplies into helicopters for distribution at the Florida Keys Marathon Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Marathon, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Wilfredo Lee

  • A trailer lies flipped on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma at Citrus Park in Bonita Springs, Fla., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (Nicole Raucheisen/Naples Daily News via AP) Nicole Raucheisen

  • The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday. ap photo

  • A woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in Hollywood, Fla. Several patients at the sweltering nursing home died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath, authorities said Wednesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) Amy Beth Bennett

  • Hollywood Police chief Tomas Sanchez and Hollywood, Fla., Director of Public Affairs Raelin Storey, right, answer questions outside the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Hollywood, Fla. Several patients at the sweltering nursing home died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath, raising fears Wednesday about the safety of Florida's 4 million senior citizens amid widespread power outages that could go on for days. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) John McCall

  • Police surround the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, Fla., which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Several patients at the sweltering nursing home died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath, raising fears Wednesday about the safety of Florida's 4 million senior citizens amid widespread power outages that could go on for days. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) John McCall

  • Customers wait in line to buy generators as many residents are still without power three days after Hurricane Irma passed through in Fort Myers, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • A sign the Pena family put in a tree at the entrance of the Hills of Santa Fe neighborhood, in Gainesville, Tuesday Sept. 12, 2017. During Hurricane Irma water from the Meadowbrook Golf Course rushed over a hill behind the Pena's home and flooded the home with about six feet of water. After Hurricane Irma hit Gainesville, flooded homes and streets seem to be some of the biggest problems residents are dealing with. (Brad McClenny/The Gainsville Sun via AP) Brad McClenny

  • A worker is silhouetted against the setting sun as he works on a power line in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Marco Island, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Florida officials say crews are restoring power across the state, but 9.5 million people remain without electricity. State Emergency Management Center officials say they restored power to 1.7 million homes and businesses on Tuesday. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Boats blown away from their docks sit in the marsh after Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at St. Marys on the Georgia coast. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) ccompton@ajc.com

  • The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Patients were evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) Amy Beth Bennett



Associated Press
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Eight patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, raising fears Wednesday about the safety of Florida’s 4 million senior citizens amid power outages that could last for days.

Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.”

Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on all nursing homes to make sure patients are safe, and he vowed to punish anyone found culpable in the deaths.

“This situation is unfathomable,” he said.

The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.

The five women and three men ranged in age from 70 to 99.

Exactly how the deaths happened was under investigation, with Sanchez saying authorities have not ruled anything out, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. He also said investigators will look into how many windows were open.

Across the street from the stifling nursing home sat a fully air-conditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.

Broward County said the nursing home had alerted the county emergency operations center on Tuesday that it had lost power, but when asked if it had any medical needs or emergencies, it did not request help.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” the police chief said. “We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population.”

The deaths came as people trying to put their lives back together in hurricane-stricken Florida and beyond confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm’s aftermath, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal generator fumes.

Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 17 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm had passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

At least six people died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from generators in Florida. A Tampa man died after the chain saw he was using to remove trees recoiled and cut his carotid artery.

In Hollywood, after responding to three early-morning calls about patients in distress, firefighters went through the facility and found three people dead and evacuated more than 150 patients to hospitals, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said. By the afternoon, five more had died.

Patients were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related ills, authorities said.