LOWER MATECUMBE KEY, Fla. - Eight patients at a sweltering Hollywood nursing home died in Hurricane Irma's aftermath, authorities said Wednesday, as people confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm's wake, including oppressive heat, brush-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.
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 early Wednesday, and five more died at the hospital. A total of 115 were evacuated from the home, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said.
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The air conditioning was out, but Sanchez said it remained under investigation whether power was entirely cut. He didn't answer questions regarding whether a generator was running inside the place.
The center is across the street from a hospital. An emergency room doctor said as soon as they got the call, 50 to 100 medical employees ran over to help.
The center is a "152-bed, skilled nurse facility and is located across the street from the Memorial Regional Hospital," according to the center’s website.
Also in the Miami area, a Coral Gables apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants, while officers arrived at the huge Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines to help people on upper floors without access to working elevators. More than half the community of 15,000 residents lacked power.
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 branches kicked back and cut his carotid artery.
Information from the Associated Press and WPLG-TV was used in this report.
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