Irma will continue to take its toll on the Sunshine State for months, if not years, but the most vulnerable residents will be hit the hardest as the death count climbs.
Stifling hot conditions may have caused the deaths of at least eight elderly patients in a Hollywood, Florida rehabilitation center.
Faculty had reported the power outage on Tuesday, and told authorities there were no medical emergencies, the Associated Press reported.
By Wednesday morning the situation had taken a horrific turn when phone call from the rehab center reported three people in distress.
Emergency responders found stifling hot conditions and evacuated 150 residents after finding three dead. Five more patients later died, presumably from heat-related complications.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez told the AP.
To make matters worse, there was a fully functioning hospital across the street with air conditioning.
The daughter of one of the victims visited her father as recently as Monday. “People are telling me different things,” Glendale Owens told the AP on Wednesday. “But nobody from the facility has told me anything yet.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott is livid over the situation calling it “unfathomable” and ordered a moratorium of any new patients as well as a full-fledged investigation.
A housekeeper at the facility told the AP that workers used fans, ice and cold towels to try to keep patients cool.
The facility’s administrator, Jorge Carballo, released a statement saying they were “cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome.”
The victims included five women and three men, ages 70 to 99. Medical examiners are not ruling out possible carbon monoxide poisoning from generators as a possible cause of death.
At least six more people have died in Florida as result of carbon monoxide poisoning, the AP reported. As well as a Tampa man who died after his chainsaw recoiled while cutting debris in his yard.
But focus on the elderly is of grave concern. An apartment building in Coral Gables was evacuated after authorities found the lack of power too dangerous for elderly residents, according to the AP.
Emergency responders have been knocking on doors and doling out ice, water and meals for residents of Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines. That community holds 15,000 elderly residents.
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