Six patients at a sweltering Florida nursing home died in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath as people confronted new hazards in the storm’s wake.
Hollywood police chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Centre in Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.”
Three patients were found dead at the nursing home early on Wednesday, and three more died at the hospital after more than 100 in all were evacuated, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs.
The air conditioning was out but Mr Sanchez said it remained under investigation whether power was entirely cut.
Also in the Miami area, a Coral Gables apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants, while officers arrived at the huge Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines to help people on upper floors without access to working lifts.
More than half the community of 15,000 residents lacked power.
In addition, at least five people died and more than a dozen were treated after breathing carbon monoxide fumes from generators in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas.
Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 13 people in Florida have died in Irma-related circumstances, many of them well after the storm had passed.
A Tampa man died after the chainsaw he was using to remove trees kicked back and wounded him.
Elsewhere, Irma has been blamed for four deaths in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.
In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25% of all homes in the Keys were destroyed and nearly all the rest were heavily damaged.
“Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when the hurricane roared in on Sunday with 130mph winds but the extent of the damage has been an unanswered question for days because some places have been unreachable.
In Marathon Key, a Publix grocery store opened under police guard on Tuesday, but residents could buy only 20 items each, and no cigarettes or alcohol allowed, said 70-year-old retiree Elaine Yaquinto.
She said she had yet to see any state or federal agencies or utility companies working on the ground yet. Her home had no electricity or running water, apart from a trickle of cold water that was good enough for a shower.
“It made me feel like normal,” she said.
President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said the federal government is working to help Florida Keys residents secure shelter through rental assistance, hotels or pre-manufactured housing. Mr Trump plans to visit Florida on Thursday.
For many of Irma’s victims, the days ahead are likely to be soggy, sweaty, dark and discouraging. One of the biggest worries is the fate of Florida’s many senior citizens.
The long-time retirement destination has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any state.
On Tuesday, Florida governor Rick Scott said he had received a lot of calls from nursing homes and assisted living facilities having problems with generators.
“We’re doing everything we can to help them get either generators, fuel, power back on. It’s one of the things we’re doing aggressively,” Mr Scott said.
At the Hollywood nursing home, Jean Lindor, a kitchen worker, said through a Haitian Creole translator that the air conditioner had not been working since the storm and it had been hot inside.
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