Eight people are dead after a Florida nursing home was left without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, local officials say.
Emergency crews responded to a call Wednesday morning about some patients at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in need of critical care. The 152-bed nursing home is located around 35 kilometres north of Miami.
Crews evacuated 115 patients from the centre, and three residents were found dead and three others died at the hospital, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said at a media conference Wednesday. Two more deaths were reported later Wednesday.
Some residents were already evacuated from the facility early Sunday morning, which had been without air conditioning for a few days.
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The deaths may be due to the loss of the home’s air-conditioning after Hurricane Irma struck Sunday, Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez said. But the cause of the deaths are still being investigated.
A member of the housekeeping staff, said the place had been hot but manageable the past few days. The staff used fans, put cold towels and ice on the patients and gave them cold drinks.
An official from the centre released a statement Wednesday saying his heart goes out to the families and friends of those affected. Administrator Jorge Carballo said the facility is cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate.
Irma struck Florida on Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm before weakening to a tropical depression on Monday.
The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida is at least 17 people now, in addition to four in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean. The Florida deaths include four people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning from electric generators in two separate incidents.
Across Florida and nearby states, some five million homes and businesses were without power on Wednesday, down from a peak of 7.8 million on Monday.
Irma’s wrath came on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which tore through parts of Texas at the end of August.
WATCH: Texas nursing home that kept residents in floodwaters raided, charges possible
During the storm, a dramatic video shows seniors stuck in rising floodwaters in a nursing home.
Manager of home previously charged with fraud
Court records show that Dr. Jack Michel and Larkin Health Systems, the company that owns the rehabilitation centre, was sued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami in 2004 for health care fraud.
In 1997, before Michel owned Larkin, federal prosecutors say he was part of a kickback scheme that involved paying doctors for referrals and admission to Larkin Community Hospital. Prosecutors say that after he bought the hospital in 1998, Michel and others fraudulently increased the number of patients at the facility, along with their Medicare and Medicaid revenues, by bringing in patients from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters