Six patients at a sweltering Florida nursing home died in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath as people confronted new hazards in the storm’s wake.
Police chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Centre at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.”
He gave no details.
A total of 115 patients were evacuated from the nursing home, which lost power in the storm and had no air conditioning.
Mr Sanchez did not answer questions regarding whether a generator was running.
In the Miami area, a Coral Gables apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants, while officers arrived at the huge Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines to help people on upper floors without access to working lifts. More than half the community of 15,000 residents lacked power.
Also, at least five people died and more than a dozen were treated for breathing carbon monoxide fumes from generators in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas.
Aside from the nursing home deaths, at least 13 people in Florida were killed in Irma-related circumstances, many of them well after the storm had passed.
A Tampa man died after the chainsaw he was using to remove branches kicked back and cut his carotid artery.
Elsewhere, Irma has been blamed for four deaths in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.
In the battered Florida Keys, meanwhile, county officials pushed back against a preliminary estimate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 per cent of all homes in the Keys were destroyed and nearly all the rest were heavily damaged.
“Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when the hurricane roared in on Sunday with 130mph winds.
President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said the federal government is working to help Florida Keys residents secure shelter through rental assistance, hotels or pre-manufactured housing.
Mr Trump plans to visit Florida today. One of the biggest worries is the fate of Florida’s many senior citizens. It has the highest proportion of people over 65 of any state.