A female resident is evacuated from the Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills.
A female resident is evacuated from the Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills. Amy Beth Bennett

Police probe nursing home deaths after Irma cut power

By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent

A CRIMINAL investigation has begun in Florida after eight people died and more than 100 had to be evacuated when a nursing home was left without air-conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Officials said temperatures soared inside the Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills, 32km north of Miami, after a "prolonged power failure” to the transformer that powered the air-conditioning units.

Three residents were found dead and five more died in hospital.

"It's a sad event,” Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez told reporters in announcing the investigation.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said he would "aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place”.

"Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable,” he said in a statement.

Television footage showed rescue crews arriving at the facility shortly after 7.30am on Wednesday and patients sitting outside in wheelchairs. Others were taken away on stretchers.

At least 27 people died in Florida and nearby US states, and destruction was widespread in the Keys, where Irma made initial US landfall on Sunday and became the second major hurricane to strike the mainland this season. More than 40 died in the Caribbean.

About 4.3 million homes and businesses, or about nine million people, were without power in Florida and nearby states yesterday, according to Reuters.

Utility firm Florida Power & Light said it had provided power to some parts of the nursing home but the facility was not on a county top tier list for emergency power restoration. - INM



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