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CORRECTED--Florida governor vows aggressive probe of Irma nursing home deaths

From Reuters - September 15, 2017

(In Sept. 13 item, updates to correct spelling of the last name of Michael Beason from Benson, in 19th paragraph and throughout)

By Andrew Innerarity and Ricardo Ortiz

HOLLYWOOD, Fla./SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott vowed on Wednesday that the state would aggressively investigate how six people died at a nursing home that lost power when Hurricane Irma rampaged through the region, as millions coped with another day without electricity.

The death toll from the storm approached 80 as officials continued to assess the damage after Irma powered through the Caribbean as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record and slammed into the Florida Keys archipelago with sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour).

Irma killed at least 36 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, according to officials. Some 4.2 million homes and businesses, or about 9 million people, were without power on Wednesday in Florida and nearby states.

Police opened a criminal investigation at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, north of Miami, where three elderly residents were found dead at the facility and three later died at a nearby hospital, officials said.

I am going to work to aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place, Scott said in a statement. This situation is unfathomable. Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe.

More than 100 patients at the nursing home were evacuated on Wednesday along with 18 patients from a nearby facility that was cleared due to the criminal investigation, Hollywood officials said.

Most of the patients have been treated for respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related issues, Randy Katz, a spokesman for Memorial Regional Hospital, told reporters. Memorial Regional is located across the street from the nursing home.

Police were first called to the facility at about 4:30 a.m. but did not arrive until after 6 a.m., officials said.

The center 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 Tomas Sanchez told reporters on Wednesday. It was very hot on the second floor.

Florida Power & Light said it had provided power to some parts of the Hollywood nursing home but that the facility was not on a county top tier list for emergency power restoration.

NEW DAMAGE ESTIMATES

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