Arts&Culture

Criminal probe opens into eight deaths at Florida nursing home after Irma

Criminal probe opens into eight deaths at Florida nursing home after Irma

Eight elderly patients died after being left inside a stifling South Florida nursing home that lost power during Hurricane Irma, officials said on Wednesday, prompting a criminal probe and adding to the mounting loss of life from the storm.

Three people died at the facility in Hollywood, Florida, and three others were pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital, the city of Hollywood said Wednesday afternoon. The facility had no electrical power after Hurricane Irma struck the state on Sunday, officials said.

Officials were investigating a number of deaths believed to be related to the storm, though it was not clear whether Irma was directly responsible in every case. The chief said authorities have not ruled anything out in the deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.

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

In Hollywood, the Rehabilitation Center said the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the air conditioning. The Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home industry group, said Wednesday morning that about 150 of almost 700 nursing facilities in the state do not have electricity fully restored.

Four more patients died at or en route to hospital and a fifth was later identified as having died the night before, officials said.

His office cited Federal Communications Commission data showing that at least 8.1 million cable and wireline subscribers have lost service in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia because of Hurricane Irma. Some were in critical condition and taken to area hospitals.

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Three people were dead when authorities arrived at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Tomas Sanchez, police chief in Hollywood, Fla., told reporters Wednesday.

"Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable", he said. And at the huge, 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door in the 94-degree heat checking on residents and bringing ice, water, and meals.

"I don't know that there is a ideal way", she said.

Nursing homes seek the best ways to keep their residents cool, looking at things like breathing issues, she said.

Representatives of the for-profit nursing home, which had received a "below average" grade from Medicare's rating system for such facilities, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Gail Matillo, president and CEO of the assisted living industry group Florida Argentum, said Wednesday that most of those facilities had their power restored.

All across Florida and the American southeast, people have grappled with the aftermath of Irma, which slammed into the Sunshine State over the weekend and tore apart trees and buildings with slashing winds and pounding rain.


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