More tragedy after Hurricane Irma


Six people are dead at a Florida nursing home that was evacuated early Wednesday after several days without power following Hurricane Irma.

"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". Seven more have died in Georgia and SC, combined, and 43 were killed in the Caribbean.

The death toll from Irma stood at 81 on Thursday, including 38 in the United States, with several hard-hit Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands accounting for more than half of the fatalities.

Florida's southwestern coast is a haven for retirees seeking warm weather and attractive sunsets across the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida officials have made restoring electricity to the millions who have lost power a priority and tens of thousands of utility company workers, many from out of state, are engaged in the huge effort.

Jack Michel, manager of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, was once accused of federal and state health care fraud charges, according to the Department of Justice. Three elderly residents were found dead on Wednesday inside the sweltering facility, which had been left without air conditioning, officials said.

The city first "became [aware] a crisis was unfolding at the facility after multiple calls in the early morning hours" Wednesday, city spokesperson Raelin Storey said Thursday.

The governor said he has ordered a probe by state authorities, and Sanchez confirmed a criminal investigation has been launched.

"We're conducting a criminal investigation, not ruling anything out at this time", said Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez. The five women and three men ranged in age from their 70s to 99.

Sharief said there are no details about the cause of the deaths.

"At no time did the facility report that conditions had become risky or that the health and safety of their patients was at risk", said Mara K. Gambineri, a health department spokeswoman.

Officials have said the interior of the building was extremely hot, and that staff were scrambling in vain to lower temperatures with fans and portable cooling units. 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. "This situation is unfathomable".

Police evacuated 115 residents on Wednesday from the facility, whose air conditioning was cut by the storm.

About 25 per cent of homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 per cent heavily damaged, according to federal officials. When residents of the lower Keys are finally allowed to return they will find nearly total devastation.

US President Donald Trump visited Gulf Coast Florida communities recovering from the hurricane yesterday, praising first responders for their role in limiting the loss of life. Irma wreaked total devastation in parts of the Caribbean, where at least 43 people have died.

Parts of the US Virgin Islands also lay in Irma's path, though Trump does not now have plans to stop there. "My house, my business, both my vehicles, everything is gone", said Benson, who was stopping in San Juan before continuing to Boston to seek refuge with his wife's brother.