Six die in Florida nursing home after Irma knocked out power

HOLLYWOOD, Fla./SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Sept 13 (Reuters) - T he death toll from Hurricane Irma climbed on Wednesday, with authorities reporting six patients at a Florida nursing home died after it had lost power, as millions struggled with no electricity and scarce essential services in the storm-hit state.

Irma, categorized as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record when it rampaged through the Caribbean, has killed at least 77 people, including 36 in the United States, officials said.

RELATED: Care facilities hit by Hurricane Irma  

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Care facilities hit by Hurricane Irma
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Care facilities hit by Hurricane Irma
Two days after Hurricane Irma, Rodriquez Benjamin, 86, stands in the door of his room waiting for help to arrive, without power, food, or water at at Cypress Run, an assisted living facility, in Immokalee, Florida, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is seen in Hollywood, north of Miami, Florida, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Guillermo Nunez speaks to the media regarding the condition of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills patient, Saga Garcia, the mother of his sister in law in front of the Center in Hollywood, north of Miami, Florida, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Firefighters cross police tape with the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the background in Hollywood, north of Miami, Florida, U.S. September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Guillermo Nunez speaks to the media regarding the condition of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills patient, Saga Garcia, the mother of his sister in law in front of the Center in Hollywood, north of Miami, Florida, U.S. September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
City of Hollywood police officers were on hand for crowds of people and heavy traffic at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, north of Miami, Florida, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
A street sign lies askew across the traffic circle from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, north of Miami, Florida, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Two days after Hurricane Irma, Mary Mitchell, 82, lays on a hospital bed in her room, without power, food, or water at Cypress Run, an assisted living facility, in Immokalee, Florida, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Two days after Hurricane Irma, William James, 83, sits without power, food or water, in his room at Cypress Run, an assisted living facility, in Immokalee, Florida, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Two days after Hurricane Irma, an elderly resident stand in a dark hallway at Cypress Run, an assisted living facility without power, food, or water, in Immokalee, Florida, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
CAPE CORAL, FL -SEP 12: Barbara asked to be positioned near a large window to enjoy both the light and the slight breeze that came through the window hoping to get relief from the heat. -A visit to the Cape Coral Shores, a memory care facility, revealed difficult conditions for residents due to the fact that the home is still without power after Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CAPE CORAL, FL -SEP 12: Bob had been wearing protective cloth sleeves for his skin condition but as temperatures rose he was hot and uncomfortable so the nursing staff removed them to help him cool down. -A visit to the Cape Coral Shores, a memory care facility, revealed difficult conditions for residents due to the fact that the home is still without power after Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CAPE CORAL, FL -SEP 12: Russell is comforted by his guardian Liz Pendy as Russell and other residents endure uncomfortable conditions at the memory care facility that has no power. -A visit to the Cape Coral Shores, a memory care facility, revealed difficult conditions for residents due to the fact that the home is still without power after Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CAPE CORAL, FL -SEP 12: Kathleen watches traffic go by and is quite bored at the Cape Coral Shores memory care facility. She'd prefer to be watching her favorite TV shows or listening to the radio but cannot due to the power outage. -A visit to the Cape Coral Shores, a memory care facility, revealed difficult conditions for residents due to the fact that the home is still without power after Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CAPE CORAL, FL -SEP 12: Louis, who is an army veteran who fought in World War II, is among those living in difficult conditions at the Cape Coral Shores memory care facility. -A visit to the Cape Coral Shores, a memory care facility, revealed difficult conditions for residents due to the fact that the home is still without power after Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CAPE CORAL, FL -SEP 12: Residents of the Cape Coral Shores memory care facility kill time because due to the power outage they can't watch TV or listen to the radio. They also have no air conditioning. -A visit to the Cape Coral Shores, a memory care facility, revealed difficult conditions for residents due to the fact that the home is still without power after Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Some 4.3 million homes and businesses, or about 9 million people, were without power at midday Wednesday in Florida and nearby states.

The Florida Keys archipelago was particularly hard hit after Irma made initial U.S. landfall on Sunday and became the second major hurricane to strike the mainland this season.

Another seven people died in Monroe County, which includes the Keys, officials said on Wednesday.

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

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.

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."

Prolonged power outages remains a risk for the elderly through the region, Sharief said.

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

Irma caused about $25 billion in insured losses, including $18 billion in the United States and $7 billion in the Caribbean, catastrophe modeler Karen Clark & Co estimated on Wednesday.

The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit, with federal officials saying that 25 percent of homes were destroyed and 65 percent suffered major damage when Irma barreled ashore on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour).

Most residents had left by then and police have barred re-entry to most of the Keys to allow more time to restore electricity and medical service and bring water, food and fuel. Some 10,000 Keys residents stayed put when the storm hit and may ultimately need to be evacuated, according to officials.

"I don't have a house. I don't have a job. I have nothing," said Mercedes Lopez, 50, whose family fled north from the Keys town of Marathon on Friday and rode out the storm at an Orlando hotel, only to learn their home was destroyed, along with the gasoline station where Lopez worked.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said warned that life on the Keys would remain tough.

"Citizens are frustrated about not being able to get the support they need right now," Long told CNN. "That's exactly why we asked them to leave."

President Donald Trump is due to visit the region on Thursday.

 

'EVERYTHING IS GONE'

Irma wreaked total devastation in parts of the Caribbean, where at least 43 people have died.

People who fled their homes in hard-hit islands including St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands that were all but cut off from the world for days arrived in San Juan late Tuesday.

Michael Benson, 65, of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, said he lost everything.

"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.

"But we have life. We rode out that horrible storm in a shower that I had reinforced after Hurricane Marilyn," Benson added. "I told the man (who installed the shower), I told him, 'If the hurricane takes the rest of my house, I want this shower sticking up out of that slab like the last tooth in the mouth of a bum. And sure enough that's what's left."

Florida's largest utility, Florida Power & Light Co, said western parts of Florida might be without electricity until Sept. 22.

Irma hit the United States about two weeks after Hurricane Harvey plowed into Houston, killing about 60 and causing some $180 billion in damage, mostly from flooding.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in Orlando, Florida, Bernie Woodall and Ben Gruber in Miami; Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Letitia Stein in Detroit, Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Gina Cherelus, Peter Szekeley and Scott DiSavino in New York; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by John Stonestreet and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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