Florida as­sists se­niors amid Irma re­cov­ery

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

HOL­LY­WOOD, Fla. — Florida se­niors shuf­fled out of sti­fling as­sisted-liv­ing cen­ters Thurs­day while care­givers fought a lack of air con­di­tion­ing with Pop­si­cles and cool com­presses af­ter eight peo­ple died at a nurs­ing home in the posthur­ri­cane heat.

Dozens of the state’s se­nior cen­ters still lacked elec­tric­ity in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Irma, and sev­eral fa­cil­i­ties were forced to evac­u­ate. While de­tec­tives sought clues to the deaths, emer­gency work­ers went door to door to look for any­one else who was at risk.

Fifty-seven res­i­dents were moved from a sub­ur­ban Fort Laud­erdale as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity with­out power to two nearby homes where power had been re­stored. Owner Ralph Mar­rin­son said all five of his Florida fa­cil­i­ties lost elec­tric­ity af­ter Irma.

“FPL has got to have a bet­ter plan for power,” he said, re­fer­ring to the state’s largest util­ity, Florida Power & Light. “We’re sup­posed to be on a pri­or­ity list, and it doesn’t come and it doesn’t come, and frankly it’s very scary.”

Stepped-up safety checks were con­ducted around the state af­ter eight deaths at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills, which shocked Florida’s top lead­ers as they sur­veyed de­struc­tion from the pun­ish­ing storm.

Statewide, 64 nurs­ing homes were still wait­ing Thurs­day for full power, ac­cord­ing to the Florida Health Care As­so­ci­a­tion. The sep­a­rate Florida As­sisted Liv­ing As­so­ci­a­tion said many of its South Florida mem­bers lacked elec­tric­ity. The group was work­ing on a pre­cise count.

A day ear­lier near Or­lando, fire­fight­ers helped re­lo­cate 122 peo­ple from two as­sisted-liv­ing cen­ters that had been with­out power since the storm. And at the 15,000-res­i­dent Cen­tury Vil­lage re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in Pem­broke Pines, where there were also wide­spread out­ages, res­cue work­ers went door to door to check on res­i­dents and bring ice, wa­ter and meals.

For older peo­ple liv­ing on their own, such as 94-year-old Mary Del­laratta, get­ting help can de­pend on the at­ten­tive­ness of neigh­bors, fam­ily and lo­cal author­i­ties. The widow evac­u­ated her Naples con­do­minium with the help of po­lice the day be­fore the hur­ri­cane. Af­ter the storm passed, a deputy took her back home and another brought her food. A dea­con from her Ro­man Catholic church also stopped by.

But with no fam­ily in the area and neigh­bors who are gone or un­will­ing to help, the New York na­tive feels cut off from the world.

“I have no­body,” she said.

Though the num­ber of peo­ple with elec­tric­ity has im­proved from ear­lier in the week, some 4.9 mil­lion peo­ple across the penin­sula con­tin­ued to wait for power. Util­ity of­fi­cials warned it could take a week or more for all ar­eas to be back up and run­ning.

In­clud­ing the nurs­ing home deaths, at least 26 peo­ple in Florida have died un­der Irma-re­lated cir­cum­stances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well af­ter the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

On Thurs­day, de­tec­tives were at the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter at Hol­ly­wood Hills af­ter re­ceiv­ing a search war­rant to in­ves­ti­gate the eight pa­tients’ deaths, which po­lice be­lieved were heat-re­lated.

Reached by phone on Thurs­day, Rose­mary Cooper, a li­censed prac­ti­cal nurse at the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter, de­clined to dis­cuss specifics about the case, cit­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump doled out hoa­gies and hand­shakes in the swel­ter­ing Florida heat on Thurs­day as he took a first­hand tour of Irma’s dev­as­ta­tion and lib­er­ally dis­pensed con­grat­u­la­tory words about the fed­eral and state re­cov­ery ef­fort.

Trump, who was in and out of the state in less than three hours, got an aerial view of the wa­ter-del­uged homes along Florida’s south­west­ern coast from his he­li­copter, then drove in his mo­tor­cade along streets lined with felled trees and shut­tered stores on his way to a mo­bile home com­mu­nity hit hard by the storm.

Walk­ing along a street in Naples Es­tates with his wife, Me­la­nia, the pres­i­dent en­coun­tered piles of bro­ken sid­ing and soggy fur­ni­ture heaped on front porches, and res­i­dents who were happy to get a pres­i­den­tial visit.

Trump ear­lier met with fed­eral and state lead­ers in Fort My­ers, where he was brim­ming with en­thu­si­asm for the state and fed­eral re­sponse ef­fort. “It’s a team like very few peo­ple have seen,” he said.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pa­tients at Krys­tal Bay Nurs­ing and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter in NorthMi­ami Beach­w­er­e­moved af­ter it lost power.

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