'It felt like 110 degree': Eight die in 'intense heat' at Florida nursing home that lost power in Hurricane Irma

Nick Allen
A woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning - South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Eight people have died at a Florida nursing home that lost power after Hurricane Irma tore through the state.

Police spokeswoman Miranda Grossman told local news outlets that fire and police crews began evacuating residents at the property in Hollywood Hills on Wednesday morning.

Mayor Barbara Sharief was quoted by local television as saying that three people died at the nursing home and five more after they were taken to a hospital. 

Some 120 residents of the facility have been evacuated "due to intense heat and no power," WSVN said.

Tom Sanchez, Hollywood Police Chief, said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related. "The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation," he added.

Governor Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make sure patients were safe, and he ordered an investigation into the deaths.

"This situation is unfathomable," he said.

The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.

Exactly how the deaths happened was under investigation. 

Patients are evacuated from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills  Credit: AP

Mr Sanchez said authorities had not ruled anything out, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. He also said investigators would look into how many windows were open.

Across the street from the nursing home sat a fully air-conditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.

"It's a sad state of affairs," Mr Sanchez said. "We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population."

“It felt like 110 degrees,” Eli Pina, who went to visit her mother on Tuesday, told the New York Times. 

The deaths, if confirmed as storm-related, would take the death toll in Florida from the hurricane to at least 17.

Police officers talk to an employee at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills Credit: AP

The region was earlier this week pummelled by category-five Hurricane Irma that brought destruction to the state after powering through the Caribbean.

The number of people without electricity in the late-summer heat dropped to 9.5 million - just under half of Florida's population.

Hurricane Irma leaves path of destruction in Caribbean as it hits Florida, in pictures

Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 people remained in shelters across the state.

How Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma

In hard-hit Naples, on Florida's southwest coast, more than 300 people stood outside a shop on Tuesday, waiting for it to open.

At the front of the queue after a more than two-hour wait, Phill Chirchirillo, 57, said days without electricity and other basics were beginning to wear on people.

"At first it's like, 'We're safe, thank God.' Now they're testy," he said. "The order of the day is to keep people calm."

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