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 and five more died at the hospital, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said in a morning news conference. The facility had no electrical power after Hurricane Irma struck the state on Sunday, officials said. More than 150 people were evacuated, many suffering from respiratory issues, dehydration and heat-related problems, according to Memorial Regional Hospital spokesman Randy Katz. In Hollywood, where the nursing home is located, temperatures are expected to reach the 90s this week.
Officers are checking all of the other 42 assisted living facilities in Hollywood as a precaution, officials said.
"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".
A kitchen worker at the center told the Miami Herald that the facility "had power from a generator to cook meals, but no air conditioning".
The governor announced in a news release Wednesday night that he's directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to issue an emergency moratorium for the facility, preventing it from admitting new patients indefinitely. Then, police responded to a 911 call and found three people dead and others in struggling health.
The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 13 with the carbon monoxide deaths, in addition to four in SC and two in Georgia. The Associated Press reported that before the deaths at the Hollywood nursing home, Irma was blamed for a combined 19 fatalities in Florida, Georgia and SC.More news: Mattis: US Nuclear Triad Must Be Maintained
Police in Hollywood, north of Miami, opened a criminal investigation on Wednesday after finding three dead patients at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hill, a facility that had been operating with little or no air conditioning.
In addition to severe flooding across Florida and extensive property damage in the Keys, residents faced widespread power outages that initially plunged more than half the state into darkness.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he is asking the secretary of health and human services to look into what happened.
"Our son was very uncomfortable - he couldn't sleep, he was sweating, and he was out of his routine", said Guillen, sitting in the lobby of the hotel with her family. He declined to say whether the electricity was entirely out at the facility or if only the air conditioning was out, saying that was still under investigation.
Nursing homes in Florida are required by law to file an emergency plan that includes evacuation plans for residents.
The number of people in shelters across the state fell to less than 13,000.