Fears for elderly as eight die

The Cairns Post - - NEWS -

Eight pa­tients at a swel­ter­ing nurs­ing home died af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma knocked out the air­con­di­tion­ing, rais­ing fears about the safety of Flor­ida’s four mil­lion se­nior cit­i­zens.

EIGHT pa­tients at a swel­ter­ing nurs­ing home died af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma knocked out the air­con­di­tion­ing, rais­ing fears yes­ter­day about the safety of Flor­ida’s four mil­lion se­nior cit­i­zens amid power out­ages that could last for days.

Hol­ly­wood po­lice chief Tom Sanchez said in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieved the deaths at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre at Hol­ly­wood Hills were heat-re­lated and added: “The build­ing has been sealed off and we are con­duct­ing a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Gover­nor Rick Scott called on Flor­ida emer­gency work­ers to im­me­di­ately check on all nurs­ing homes to make sure pa­tients were safe and he vowed to pun­ish any­one found cul­pa­ble in 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. The five women and three men ranged in age from 70 to 99. Across the street from the sti­fling nurs­ing home is a fully air­con­di­tioned hospi­tal, Me­mo­rial Re­gional.

Broward County said the nurs­ing home had alerted the county emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­tre that it had lost power, but when asked if it had any med­i­cal needs or emer­gen­cies, it did not re­quest help.

“It’s a sad state of af­fairs,” the po­lice chief said.

When asked why the pa­tients hadn’t been taken across the street to Me­mo­rial Re­gional hospi­tal when tem­per­a­tures be­came dan­ger­ous, Hol­ly­wood city spokes­woman Rayelin Storey said: “We can’t get in­side the heads of the staff and the ad­min­is­tra­tors of this fa­cil­ity.”

The Hol­ly­wood fa­cil­ity’s ad­min­is­tra­tor, Jorge Car­ballo, said that it was “co-op­er­at­ing fully with rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances that led to this un­for­tu­nate and tragic out­come”.

The deaths came as peo­ple con­fronted a mul­ti­tude of new haz­ards in the storm’s af­ter­math, in­clud­ing tree-clear­ing ac­ci­dents and lethal gen­er­a­tor fumes. Flor­ida has the high­est pro­por­tion of peo­ple 65 and older of any US state – 1 in 5 of its 20 mil­lion res­i­dents.

Mary Della Ratta, 94, has been with­out power in her Naples home for days. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “How am I go­ing to last here?”

Pic­ture: AP

STRUG­GLING: Mary Della Ratta, 94, at home days af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma knocked out power in Naples, Flor­ida.

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