Police are investigating the deaths of eight nursing home residents in Hollywood, Florida, where oppressive heat and humidity set in after Hurricane Irma knocked out much of the power in the area.
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills said the residents, ages 71 to 99, died "following a prolonged outage of our air conditioning system due to Hurricane Irma."
The center did not lose power during the storm, but it lost a transformer that powers the air conditioning, nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement. He added that the center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was made to local emergency officials and first responders, Carballo said, without specifying when.
"Staff set up mobile cooling units and fans to cool the facility and continually checked on our residents' well-being to ensure they were hydrated," Carballo said. "We are devastated by these losses. We are fully cooperating with all authorities and regulators to assess what went wrong and to ensure our other residents are cared for."
The nursing home's statement was the latest in a day of finger pointing among state officials, Florida Power & Light and the nursing home, leading to more questions than answers about how the sweltering conditions persisted for so long.
One resident died late Tuesday at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and was taken directly to a funeral home. Three more were found dead on the second floor of the facility after rescue units were called in. Four more died in hospitals after the sweltering facility was evacuated Wednesday morning in a chaotic blur of events that prompted checks of other nursing homes in the area.
In a statement, Richard Beltran, a spokesman for Florida Power & Light, said: "What we know now is that a portion of the facility did, in fact, have power, that there was a hospital across the parking lot from this facility and that the nursing home was required to have a permanently installed operational generator."
The utility said it urges facilities with patients dependent on electricity-powered equipment, and who don't have power, to call 911 if there is a life-threatening situation.
Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families have launched investigations.
The nursing home has had a list of safety violations and citations, including two for not following generator regulations in 2014 and 2016. In both instances, the nursing home corrected these deficiencies.