Eight people were dead in a Broward County nursing home left without power post-Hurricane Irma.
Three people were found dead at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and another three were pronounced dead at the hospital according to Hollywood officials. The toll later rose to eight by Wednesday evening.
Local law enforcement said the nursing home had been without air conditioning for days following the storm, which made landfall last weekend.
“The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation inside,” Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez told reporters Wednesday. “It was very hot on the second floor.”
Police said they responded to a call coming in around 4 a.m. Wednesday, finding “several patients in varying degrees of medical distress.” All 115 residents were later evacuated from the facility.
The fatalities were the latest in horrific chapter of Hurricane Irma’s saga in the Sunshine State.
Gov. Rick Scott said he was “absolutely heartbroken” to hear of the news and demanded answers as to how the tragedy took place.
“Protecting the lives of Floridians is my top priority and that’s why we have worked all week to help Floridians prepare and respond to Hurricane Irma,” he said. “Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable. Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe – especially patients that are in poor health.”
Scott directed the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to help investigate the incident and would ask first responders to check in on other assisted living facilities to ensure residents were safe.
Other local elected officials extended their condolences to the families of the residents on Wednesday.
“It is unfortunate and disheartening to learn of the deaths of these residents,” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park and Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation in a joint statement. “We will continue to pray for the strength of the families affected and examine anything within our capacity as elected officials we can do to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.”
Millions of people have been left without power after Hurricane Irma swept through the state over the weekend and Monday, with high temperatures amplifying distress and urgency to turn the lights back on.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management estimated around 3.7 million accounts were still without power as of noon Wednesday.
State officials continued to survey the damage left from the powerful storm on Wednesday, with Gov. Rick Scott making stops in Clay County and the Florida Keys as the state recovers from the catastrophic storm.
In the Florida Keys, where Irma made her first landfall, destruction was widespread. FEMA officials announced Tuesday 25 percent of homes in the Keys had been totally destroyed while thousands of others faced widespread damage and were still left without power.
Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm Sunday morning before moving northward, up the state to Marco Island, where it made landfall as a Category 3.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.