Emergency workers around hurricane-scarred Florida worked to make sure elderly residents were safe, evacuating multiple assisted-living facilities, after eight people died in a sweltering nursing home that lost its air conditioning in the storm.
An initial news release from the city of Hollywood said that three patients were found dead in the facility early Wednesday, while others were taken to the hospital and pronounced dead there.
An investigation of possible criminal negligence has begun, Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez told reporters.
A criminal investigation was underway, Hollywood police said.
Florida's governor called on first responders Wednesday to check health care facilities statewide in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Eight residents of the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, died this week after the facility's air conditioning system failed in the wake of Hurricane Irma. That person was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital just feet away from the nursing home, and then an hour later, firefighters were called right back for a patient experiencing breathing problems.
Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record before striking the US mainland as a Category 4 hurricane on September 10, killed at least 84 people.
Florida's healthcare agency ordered the nursing home on Thursday to be suspended from the state Medicaid program. Authorities said other people at the facility were being evacuated to other locations.
Residents at The Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills fell ill following days without power.
Police said they responded to a call coming in around 4 a.m. Wednesday, finding "several patients in varying degrees of medical distress".
The nursing home has had brushes with the regulators in recent years for violating federal rules on its power system, a generator and because of a faulty alarm, according to records.
"We often see that injuries and deaths after disaster in the United States are more common than those actually caused by the disaster itself", Kirsch said.
Amber Mickles, who was looking for her great-grandmother, aged 94, told the New York Post: "Imagine the heat, I am 29 and I can't take it and for them to have to sit through is awful".
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said he spoke to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to ask him if Veterans Affairs medical facilities could be used to house elderly people, if necessary, and was told yes.
President Trump returned from Florida Sept. 14, after he spent time visiting with people who were in the path of Hurricane Irma.
In addition to severe flooding across Florida and extensive property damage in the Keys, one of the chief hardships facing Floridians has been widespread power outages that initially plunged more than half the state into darkness. More than 21,000 people remain in shelters across the state. She adds that utility providers have said they hope to have power restored for all of southeastern Florida by the weekend.