x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

Eight dead in Florida nursing home following Hurricane Irma

Police have launched an investigation into the deaths of the eight residents, following prolonged power outage and severe humid conditions

Police surround the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, Florida, which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power. John McCall / South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP
Police surround the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, Florida, which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power. John McCall / South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths of eight people in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. This as Hurricane Irma swept through the state earlier this week, leaving thousands without power and water.

Three of the victims were found dead at the facility, and the others died on the way to hospital. Police were dispatched to the Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills on Wednesday, where they were met with "extremely hot" conditions on the second floor. 

Dr Randy Katz, the emergency room medical director at a hospital nearby said they had evacuated 115 patients and at least a dozen are being treated. “Potentially” more people could die, he said. Victims were suffering from respiratory distress, dehydration and other heat-related injuries. 

Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement he would "aggressively demand answers" on what he called an “unfathomable” situation. The ages of the victims ranged from 71 to 99.

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Read more:

Florida residents count their blessings as hurricane heads away

We are grateful to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for sending aid to the Caribbean

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Police chief Tom Sanchez told media at a press conference that the state prosecutor and the agency that regulates nursing homes are both involved in the investigation. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said government officials had requested that power companies prioritise senior citizen communities before the hurricane hit.

Robert Gould, a spokesman for NextEra Energy Inc’s Florida Power & Light, said utility representatives had met with Broward County officials in early March. “We worked with them. They identified which facilities were to be critical, top infrastructure facilities,” Mr Gould said. “This was not one of them, unlike Memorial Regional Medical Hospital across the street, which is in service.”

However, in a statement the Broward County government suggested that the utility shared responsibility. It said the facility had in fact been listed as "non-critical" infrastructure, but only because that was how nursing homes were supposed to be designated under FPL’s own guidance. It also said the information on the power outage was relayed to FPL on Tuesday as "mission-critical."

“The elderly depend on us for their care, and it’s especially sad when something like this happens,” Dr Katz, the doctor, told reporters. The investigation continues.