5 Florida Nursing Home Residents Were Found Dead After Irma’s Massive Power Outage

by Tara Merrigan
Sean Rayford/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, after Hurricane Irma knocked out power across the state, five Florida nursing home residents were found dead. They had reportedly been exposed to intense heat caused by the power outages and subsequent lack of air conditioning. UPDATE: The death toll has risen to at least eight, according to CNN.

With the help of emergency responders, the nursing home, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, has evacuated 115 other residents. "There are a number of critical patients," said Raelin Story, a spokeswoman for Hollywood, Florida, the municipality in which the home is located. According to Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief, three of the five died at the nursing home while the other two died at Memorial Regional Hospital.

Though the five deaths may have been caused by a lack of air conditioning following Hurricane Irma, Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said that law enforcement is going to conduct a full investigation. "We are conducting a criminal investigation [and] not ruling anything out at this time," Sanchez said, according to CNN. The Miami Herald reported that police got a call alerting them to the situation at the nursing home around 4 a.m. One resident had already died at that time.

Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Florida on Sunday, has knocked out power for millions of Floridians. The state's largest electricity company, Florida Power & Light, has said that nearly 4.5 million people lost power due to the hurricane.

"We've never had that many outages, and I don't think any utility in the country ever has," FPL Chief Executive Eric Silagy said on Monday, according to Reuters. "It is by far and away the largest in the history of our company."

"We understand what it means to be in the dark," said Robert Gould, vice president and chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light, according to The Washington Post. "We understand what it means to be hot and without air conditioning. We will be restoring power day and night."

In Florida, electricity is not just about having lights turn out at night. For Floridians, who live in a near-tropical climate, electricity means living in comfortable temperatures via air conditioning.

"It's a mess, a real mess. The biggest issue is power," said Naples, Florida, Mayor Bill Barnett. "We just need power. It's 92 degrees and the sun is out and it's smoking out there."

FPL's Gould said he hopes that for Floridians on the east coast , power will be restored by Sunday night. For those living on Florida's Gulf Coast, on the west — the region hit harder by Irma — it may take until Sept. 22.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where five elderly residents died, is not the only care facility in Florida struggling with a lack of power. At the Cape Coral Shores medical center in Southwest Florida, patients have been relying on fans.

Dan Nelson, Cape Coral Shores' chief operating officer, told The Washington Post.

People here are fragile. This is not just about comfort, it's about safety. We have magnet door locks that don't work, fire suppression equipment whose batteries have run out, assisted bed lifts that don't work. And the temperatures today and tomorrow are headed back to the mid-90s.

According to Ted Kury, director of energy studies at the University of Florida's Public Utility Research Center, so many Floridians are without power because of Irma's huge size.

For a significant period of time, the entire state was under a hurricane warning. Normally it comes through, sometimes it comes through fast and sometimes it comes through slowly. But this one hit pretty much everybody.

As for the five elderly people who died on Wednesday, they are part of an increasing number people who have been killed as a result of Irma. According to CBS News, at least 25 people have died as a result of the storm.