Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Irma aftermath: 8 die in sweltering South Florida nursing home

Irma aftermath: 8 die in sweltering South Florida nursing home

Six Hollywood, Fla., nursing home residents died Wednesday morning in a building left without air conditioning after Irma blasted South Florida, according to Hollywood police chief Tom Sanchez.

At least 10 people were killed when Irma hit Cuba as a category five hurricane, the island nation's worst hurricane death toll since 16 died in Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

Like many places in South Florida, the nursing home has been without power since being blasted by tropical storm winds with hurricane gusts on the edge of Hurricane Irma.

More than 80 percent of Floridians have gotten their power restored after Hurricane Irma roared through the state.

Florida's southwestern coast is a haven for retirees seeking warm weather and attractive sunsets across the Gulf of Mexico.

On Wednesday, facility administrator Jorge Caballo said the home had contacted officials and local power company Florida Power & Light, informing them of the situation.

An emergency cellphone assigned to the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott was called by nursing home officials at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills asking for assistance, the governor's office confirmed to ABC News Friday.

Three patients were found dead at the nursing home early Wednesday after police got a call about a person with a heart attack, and three more died at the hospital or on the way, police said. "Someone let the ball drop very, very far", Kenneth Nova said by phone from his home in Winter Haven. "Our most important concern to ensure they were hydrated and as comfortable as possible", said Carballo in a statement. "The temperatures, particularly on the second floor, were extremely hot".

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

"To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced", Pruitt said".

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"This is an inexcusable tragedy that frail patients would die of heat exhaustion without it being recognized and taking them to the hospital next door", Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday.

Governor Scott has asked first responders to check in with healthcare facilities in their area and "make sure nursing homes and assisted living facilities are able to keep their residents safe".

Fire and rescue teams were first called to the facility at about 3am for a patient reported in cardiac arrest, and firefighters returned an hour later for a resident with breathing difficulties, the city said.

Catastrophe modeler Karen Clark & Co estimated Wednesday that the destructive storm has caused about 25 billion USA dollars in insured losses, including 18 billion dollars in the United States and 7 billion dollars in the Caribbean.

The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit, with federal officials saying 90 percent of its homes were destroyed or heavily damaged. When residents of the lower Keys are finally allowed to return they will find nearly total devastation.

President Donald Trump arrived in Florida Thursday to tour damage caused by Hurricane Irma, the third time in three weeks he's visited an area devastated by a natural disaster.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom said on Wednesday it would add an extra 25 million pounds ($33.2 million/27.2 million euros) in aid for its territories in the Caribbean devastated by Irma.

"I think we're doing a good job in Florida", Trump said upon arrival in Fort Myers. "My house, my business, both my vehicles, everything is gone", said Benson, who was stopping in San Juan before continuing to Boston to seek refuge with his wife's brother.

With millions of people in Florida still lacking power, officials are urging those who need a break from the heat to visit cooling centers and drink water.

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