Six Florida rest home residents die in sweltering heat following Hurricane Irma

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Associated Press

Six patients at a sweltering Hollywood nursing home died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath, as people confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm's wake, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.

Six patients at a sweltering Hollywood nursing home died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath.
Source: Associated Press

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 today, and three more died at the hospital after more than 100 in all were evacuated, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said.

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 under 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.

Elsewhere, Irma has been blamed for four deaths in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.

In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 per cent 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.

President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said the federal government is working to help Florida Keys residents secure shelter through rental assistance, hotels or pre-manufactured housing. 

For many of Irma's victims, the days ahead are likely to be soggy, sweaty, dark and discouraging. One of the biggest worries is the fate of Florida's many senior citizens.

The longtime retirement destination has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any state — 1 in 5 of its 20 million residents.

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