14 Sep 2017

Death toll rises at Florida nursing home hit by Irma

12:54 pm on 14 September 2017

Eight people have died at a Florida nursing home that was left without power for days after Hurricane Irma.

The nursing home being evacated.

Emergency services evacuate the nursing home in Broward County. Photo: BBC / Screengrab

Police evacuated 115 residents, whose air conditioning was cut by the storm, from the facility on Wednesday.

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said three were found dead at the nursing home in the city of Hollywood. Five others died in hospital.

Ten million people are still without power in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas after Hurricane Irma.

The storm, which has claimed more than two dozen lives in the US, struck southwestern Florida on Sunday morning as a category four hurricane before weakening to a tropical depression on Monday.

The overall death toll from Hurricane Irma in the US and the Carribean has now risen to 81, with several hard-hit Caribbean islands accounting for more than half the fatalities.

A damaged house after Hurricane Irma swept through the Florida Keys.

A damaged house after Hurricane Irma swept through the Florida Keys. Photo: AFP

Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills facility has been sealed off and police were conducting a criminal investigation.

State investigators from the Florida Office of Attorney General were also at the scene, city officials said in a statement.

"It may be related to a loss of power in the storm," he said, adding that officers were checking in on 42 other assisted living facilities and nursing homes throughout the city.

Hollywood Fire Rescue found several patients "in varying degree of medical distress and immediately began treatment" when they arrived at the Hollywood Hills facility on Wednesday morning, according to the city's statement.

Kitchen worker Jean Lindor told the Miami Herald a generator allowed staff to cook but did not provide the facility with air conditioning.

Temperatures on Tuesday in Hollywood reached 32°C according to the National Weather Service.

The Florida Health Care Association called the deaths a "profound tragedy within the larger tragedy of Hurricane Irma".

The facility is not the only Florida nursing home that has been left without power by Irma.

An estimated 150 facilities out of the nearly 700 in the state are currently without full power services, the association said.

The group said it was working with officials to prioritise "the locations with the greatest need".

More than half of a large retirement community in Pembroke Pines, Florida, still had no electricity by Wednesday morning, leaving elderly residents stuck in rooms with no access to lifts.

Pembroke Pines police spokeswoman Amanda Conwell told the Miami Herald that officers were at the scene.

She said some of the 15,000 residents at Century Village were vulnerable and "we are concerned about their welfare".

Another assisted care facility for dementia patients in Fort Myers, Florida, went without power for three days after Hurricane Irma as elderly patients suffered in the rising heat.

Cape Coral Shores kept 20 patients during the storm as part of an agreement with authorities because local emergency shelters had been evacuated as Irma bore down on the coast.

Florida residents are still returning from shelters to their households to count the cost of Irma's destruction.

Authorities say preliminary estimates suggest 25 percent of the homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and 65 percent sustained major damage.


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