Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Eight dead at Florida nursing home sounds alarms

HEAT-RELATED?Authorities have not ruled out any possibilities, including carbon monoxide poising from generators, and will look into how many windows were open

AP, HOLLYWOOD, Florida

Florida warily eyed the fate of its most vulnerable residents and emergency workers were urged to immediately check on those in nursing homes after eight people died in a scorching hot facility that lost its air-conditioning after Hurricane Irma.

Even in the face of a storm that shrouded nearly the entire state and had officials still piecing together its destruction, the news on Wednesday from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills stood out, with victims as old as 99 among the dead and worries the count could grow.

“Unfathomable,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

“Inexcusable,” US Senator Bill Nelson added.

Elsewhere in south Florida, other alarms were sounded for older residents.

In Coral Gables, an apartment building was evacuated after authorities said its lack of power made it unsafe for older tenants.

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 34.4°C heat checking on residents and bringing ice, water and meals.

Although the number of people with electricity had drastically improved from earlier in the week, about 6.8 million people across the peninsula continued to wait for power, and utility officials warned it could take a week or more for all areas to be back up and running.

As the state continued to piece itself back together, US President Donald Trump was yesterday scheduled to visit Naples in southwestern Florida.

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.

In Hollywood, the rehabilitation center said the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the air-conditioning.

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

Early on Wednesday morning, after responding to three calls about patients there 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. Others were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related problems.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said, adding that investigators believe the deaths at the center were heat-related and that the building has been sealed off and a criminal investigation is under way.

Authorities have not ruled anything out in the deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, Sanchez said, adding that he 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.

The medical examiner’s office said the victims were five women and three men, aged 70 to 99.

Scott vowed to punish anyone found culpable in the deaths.

Nelson demanded a federal investigation.

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