HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Six patients at a sweltering Hollywood nursing home died in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath, authorities said Wednesday, as people confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm’s wake, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.” He did not elaborate.
Three patients were found dead at the nursing home early Wednesday, and three more died at the hospital after more than 100 in all were evacuated, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said.
The air conditioning was out, but Sanchez said it remained under investigation whether power was entirely cut. He didn’t answer questions regarding whether a generator was running inside the place.
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 elevators. 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 chain saw he was using to remove trees kicked back and cut his carotid artery.
In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 percent 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 130 mph (209 kph) 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.
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