Florida governor vows aggressive probe of Irma nursing home deaths

HOLLYWOOD, Fla./SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Florida Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday vowed that the state would aggressively investigate how six people died at a nursing home that lost power when Hurricane Irma rampaged through the region, as millions coped with another day without electricity.

The death toll from the storm approached 80 as officials continued to assess the damage Irma caused after powering through the Caribbean as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record and slamming into the Florida Keys archipelago with sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour).

The second major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland this year killed at least 36 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, according to officials. Some 4.3 million homes and businesses, or about 9 million people, were without power at midday Wednesday in Florida and nearby states.

Police opened a criminal investigation at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where three elderly residents were found dead at the facility and three later died at a nearby hospital, officials said.

“I am going to work to aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place,” Scott said in a statement. “This situation is unfathomable. Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe.”

More than 100 patients at the nursing home were evacuated on Wednesday along with 18 patients from a nearby facility that was cleared due to the criminal investigation, Hollywood officials said.

Police were first called to the facility at about 4:30 a.m. but did not arrive until after 6 a.m., officials said.

The center had been without air conditioning, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief told reporters on Wednesday.

“The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation inside,” Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez told reporters on Wednesday. “It was very hot on the second floor.”

Florida Power & Light said it had provided power to some parts of the Hollywood nursing home but that the facility was not on a county top tier list for emergency power restoration.

NEW DAMAGE ESTIMATES

A destroyed marina is pictured in an aerial photo in the Keys in Marathon, Florida, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Irma caused about $25 billion in insured losses, including $18 billion in the United States and $7 billion in the Caribbean, catastrophe modeler…

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