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17 September 2017, 02:27 | Opal Carroll
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Florida emergency workers have been urged to immediately check the welfare of those in nursing homes after eight people died in a scorching facility that lost its air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.
Three people died at the facility in Hollywood, Fla., and two others were pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital, Barbara Sharief, the Broward County mayor, said at a news briefing Wednesday morning.
"The Hollywood Police Department has been granted a search warrant for this property", Raelin Storey, the city's public affairs director, said at a news conference outside the nursing home Thursday morning.
"The suspicion is that these deaths should not have occurred", NPR's Jon Hamilton reported from the scene Wednesday.
"Facility administration has been in communication with Florida Power & Light and the Governor's office since the beginning of Hurricane Irma, and is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome", Carballo wrote. Three elderly residents were found dead on Wednesday inside the sweltering facility, which had been operating with little or no air conditioning, officials said.
One of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, Irma bore down on the Caribbean with devastating force as it raked the northern shore of Cuba last week before barreling into the Florida Keys island chain on Sunday, packing sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour).
The storm also cut off power, water and sewage to the islands, which are home to some 70,000 people.
A warrant has been signed to begin searching the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which is affiliated with Larkin Community Hospital, and a criminal investigation is underway.
"It may be related to a loss of power in the storm", he said, adding that officers were checking in on 42 other assisted living facilities and nursing homes throughout the city.
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"We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators", he said.
The account the nursing home executives provided to the Washington Post offers new details of the deteriorating conditions inside the facility.
Police said the residents' causes of death were not yet known, the Sentinel reported. Sen. The Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home industry group, said Wednesday morning that about 150 of almost 700 nursing facilities in the state do not have electricity fully restored.
The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 13 with the carbon monoxide deaths, in addition to four in SC and two in Georgia. Broward County said the home alerted officials Tuesday that it had lost power, but when asked if it had any medical needs or emergencies, it did not request help. So far, eight deaths have been confirmed, including the person who had apparently died before someone first called firefighters to the nursing home.
There is also a spot cooler, one of eight the state says was brought into the building as temperatures soared.
Officials initially said as many as 158 people had been moved from the center; on Thursday, police clarified that 145 patients were sent to Memorial Regional Hospital - 141 from the center and four from an adjoining facility.
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