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Florida Nursing Home Death Toll Climbs to Eight

MIAMI – Eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, that lost power due to Hurricane Irma have died and 115 others were evacuated from that same facility on Wednesday, a case that authorities say is the subject of a criminal investigation.

Eighty other people were evacuated hours later from another nursing home that also was still without electricity on Wednesday in North Miami Beach, where the Weather Channel said the temperature at 6 pm felt like 37 C (99 F).

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said in a press conference Wednesday morning that three people had died inside the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and three others subsequently passed away after being taken to the Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, a city just north of Miami.

On Wednesday afternoon, police officials said two other residents of the facility in Hollywood had died.

Police have opened a criminal investigation into the deaths, which were likely the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from an electric generator or due to stifling heat from a lack of power and air conditioning in the wake of Irma, which battered South Florida at the weekend.

Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez told reporters that officers also were inspecting 42 other nursing homes in the city to assess the condition of their residents.

Those inspections led to the evacuation of the facility in North Miami Beach, part of Miami-Dade County.

The dead have been identified by Broward County officials as Estella Hendricks, 71; Gail Nova, 70; Carolyn Eatherly, 78; Bobby Owens, 84; Manuel Mario Medieta, 96; Miguel Antonio Franco, 92; Betty Hibbard, 84; and Albertina Vega, 99.

It is still unclear how long that facility had been without power prior to the arrival of fire rescue crews and police, who responded to an emergency call early Wednesday morning.

Local television footage before noon on Wednesday showed elderly people in wheelchairs outside the nursing home. That building is located next to Larkin Community Hospital, which also had to be evacuated.

A repairman told Local 10 News that he had been trying to fix the air conditioning at the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills but that he first needed Florida Power & Light to come out to the establishment and pop back in a fuse, adding that he had made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to contact the utility.

The Weather Channel said the hurricane had caused the deaths of at least 67 people in the Caribbean and the Southeast US, putting the number of fatalities in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina at 31.

Besides mentioning the eight deaths at the nursing home, it also noted that officials in Monroe County, Florida, reported eight additional fatalities on Wednesday.

That county is home to the Florida Keys, which was battered by Category 4 winds and devastating storm surge when Irma made landfall on that coral cay archipelago off Florida’s southern coast on Sunday morning.

In Florida alone, authorities said on Tuesday that $250 million had been set aside for recovery and clean-up, although it will take months to determine Irma’s final economic toll.


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