Five nursing-home residents in Florida died Wednesday morning after becoming ill inside a building left without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma, officials said.
First-responders were called to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where they evacuated the residents who awoke sick, the Miami Herald reported.
The high temperature Tuesday in Hollywood was 99°, with a low of 79°, according to the National Weather Service.
According to Hollywood Fire Rescue and police, 120 people were evacuated from the building, which was turned into a veritable oven without air conditioning.
Kitchen worker Jean Lindor told the Miami paper that a generator had been used to cook — but not to power the air-conditioning system.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief confirmed that five people died, but it was unclear whether the deaths were related to the heat, WSVN reported.
Sharief added that three deaths occurred at the nursing home, and two deaths took place after other residents were transported to nearby Memorial Regional Hospital, WPLG Local 10 reported.
Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said the building has been sealed off while a criminal investigation is conducted, WSVN reported.
“We believe at this time they may be related to the loss of power in the storm,” he said of the victims, adding that he assigned officers to check 42 other nursing homes to make sure they’re safe.
Authorities are “not ruling anything out,” he said.
Nurse Geane Mitchell said she had been off the last few days and that when she showed up, paramedics told her she could not enter the nursing home, according to the Miami Herald.
Several residents were seen sitting on wheelchairs outside next to Memorial Regional Hospital, WPLG reported. The adjacent Larkin Community Hospital also was evacuated.
An air conditioning company employee said a fuse had popped out during Hurricane Irma and needed to be repaired. He said he has been trying to reach Florida Power & Light for days.
“There’s nothing we can do,” Dave Long of Airstron told WPLG. “We’ve been calling and calling. … It just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and I can’t do anything until we get that fuse popped back in.”
He described the ordeal as “frustrating.”