5 die at nursing home as Irma toll hits 69; 4m without power

MIAMI/SAN JUAN: Hurricane Irma has claimed eight more lives, including five patients at a Florida nursing home that lost power, authorities said on Wednesday, as more than 4 million people in four states struggled without electricity and residents slowly returned to the devastated Florida Keys.
Categorised as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record when it rampaged through the Caribbean, Irma has killed at least 69 people, officials said.
At least 26 people died in Florida and nearby US states, and destruction was widespread in the Keys, where Irma made initial US landfall on Sunday and became the second major hurricane to strike the mainland this season.
Police opened a criminal investigation at the Rehabilitation Centre of Hollywood Hills, where two elderly residents were found dead at the facility and three later died at a hospital, officials said.
Some residents were evacuated early on Sunday morning and some woke up feeling sick at the centre, which 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 Thomas Sanchez told reporters on Wednesday.
Prolonged power outages remains a risk for the elderly through the region, Sharief said.
“Elderly people and our population of children are very vulnerable, so they’re not out of the woods yet,” Sharief said. “We need to try to restore power and try to get those people to a safe and comfortable place.”
Some 4.3 million homes and businesses, or about nine million people, were without power at midday on Wednesday in Florida and nearby states.
Authorities continued to assess damage in the Florida Keys, where federal officials estimated that 25 per cent of homes were destroyed and 65 per cent suffered major damage when Irma barrelled ashore on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 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.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said warned that life on the Keys would remain tough. President Donald Trump is due to visit the region on Thursday. — Reuters

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