Criminal probe opens into 8 deaths at Florida nursing home after Irma

A damaged home in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Updated 14 September 2017

Criminal probe opens into 8 deaths at Florida nursing home after Irma

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: Eight elderly patients died after being left inside a stifling South Florida nursing home that lost power during Hurricane Irma, officials said on Wednesday, prompting a criminal probe and adding to the mounting loss of life from the storm.
The overall death toll from Irma climbed to 81 on Wednesday, with several hard-hit Caribbean islands accounting for more than half the fatalities, and officials continued to assess damage inflicted by the second major hurricane to strike the US mainland this year.
Irma killed at least 31 people in Florida, plus seven more in Georgia and South Carolina combined, authorities said.
One of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, Irma bore down on the Caribbean with devastating force as it raked the northern shore of Cuba last week before barreling into the Florida Keys island chain on Sunday, packing sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour).
It then plowed north up the Gulf Coast of the state before dissipating.
In addition to severe flooding across Florida and extensive property damage in the Keys, residents faced widespread power outages that initially plunged more than half the state into darkness.
Some 4.3 million homes and businesses were still without power on Wednesday in Florida and neighboring states, down from 7.4 million customers on Monday.
Three elderly residents were found dead on Wednesday inside a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, north of Miami.
the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hill had been operating with little or no air conditioning, officials said.
Four more patients died at or en route to a nearby hospital and a fifth was later identified as having died the night before.
Governor Rick Scott called the tragedy “unfathomable,” and police said they had opened a criminal investigation, sealing off the building after the remaining patients were transferred to hospitals.
City officials described the interior as “excessively hot,” despite portable air coolers and fans that, according to state records, had been placed throughout the facility.
The eight who died ranged in age from 71 to 99, according to the Broward County medical examiner’s office. The cause of their deaths has yet to be determined.
But most of the survivors were treated for “respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related issues,” Memorial Regional Hospital’s emergency medical director, Dr. Randy Katz, told reporters.
Representatives of the for-profit nursing home, which had received a “below average” grade from Medicare’s rating system for such facilities, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The physician listed in state records as its manager, Jack Michel, previously ran afoul of state and federal regulators over assisted-living facilities that he partially owned.
In 2006, he and three co-defendants paid $15.4 million to settle Medicare and Medicaid fraud claims against them, according to the US Justice Department.
Florida Power & Light provided electricity to parts of the nursing home but the facility was not on a county top-tier list for emergency power restoration, the utility said.
Total insured losses from the storm are expected to run about $25 billion, including $18 billion in the United States and $7 billion in the Caribbean, catastrophe modeler Karen Clark & Company estimated on Wednesday.
The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit, with federal officials saying 90 percent of its homes were destroyed or heavily damaged. The remote island chain stretches nearly 100 miles (160 km) into the Gulf of Mexico from Florida’s southern tip, connected by a single highway and series of bridges.
On Key West, at the end of the archipelago, hundreds of residents who had refused evacuation orders lined up on Wednesday outside the island’s Salvation Army outpost for water and military-style rations after enduring days of intense heat with little water, power or contact with the outside world.
The stench of dead fish and decaying seaweed permeated the air.
Elizabeth Martinez, 61, said the ordeal, including losing part of the roof of her home, had convinced her it was time to leave the island. “I’m saving my money up and moving out of here,” she said.
But David Sheidy, a 58-year-old painter, predicted Key West would bounce back quickly.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “This is a small community where everybody knows each other and takes care of each other.”
President Donald Trump was due to visit Florida on Thursday.
Irma wreaked utter devastation on several of the northern Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, where at least 43 people have died. Irma hit Florida about two weeks after Hurricane Harvey plowed into Houston, killing about 60 and causing some $180 billion in damage, mostly from flooding.


LIVE: Davos 2020 Day One - Thunberg slams elites, Trump hails US economic rebound

Updated 8 min 40 sec ago

LIVE: Davos 2020 Day One - Thunberg slams elites, Trump hails US economic rebound

  • Discussion panels featuring a number of high profile figures from the political, business and civil world.
  • Environment and climate issues on agenda, but Iran and Lebanon expected to feature heavily

The World Economic Forum 2020 started on Tuesday in Davos in Switzerland. Greta Thunberg kicked off the three day forum in a panel discussion on Sustainable Path towards a Common Future.

There will be discussion panels featuring a number of high profile figures from the political, business and civil world.

They will discuss a wide range of subjects including the environment and climate issues, but Iran and Lebanon are expected to feature heavily.

Follow Arab News’ coverage below

13:45 - Bollywood superstar and mental health ambassador Deepika Padukone has a very honest and inspiring conversation with World Health Organization's director-general about her own experiences with mental illness and how the stigma surrounding it can be ended...

In 2017, Padukone spoke vividly about her struggle with depression and the stigma that surrounded it. She also described how she decided to speak out, so others wouldn't have to suffer in the same way she did. Watch the Crystal Awardee speaking earlier at Davos:

13:00 - Saudi Arabia's Minister for Communications and IT Abdullah Al-Swaha has been speaking on a panel about the strategic outlook for Middle East economies. He makes the salient point that if countries want their economies to grow, they must focus on youth, technology and the empowerment of women...

11:30 - US President Donald Trump reverted to his role as salesman Tuesday, telling a gathering of the world's top businessmen in the Swiss Alps that he's led a “spectacular” turnaround of the US economy and encouraged them to invest in America.

He reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback."

“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.

11:00 - Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson delivered a special message from Pope Francis. He called on everyone to remember that we are all members of one human family, and that we have a moral obligation to care for one another.

And he asked for a renewed ethical approach in the forthcoming discussions, including in the discipline of economics.

10:30 - The historian Yuval Noah Harari struck a pessimistic note at the opening of this session on the technology arms race. 

"On the most shallow level it could be a repeat of the 19thcentury industrial revolution, when the leaders had the chance to dominate the world economically and politically... I understand the current arms race as an imperial arms race... You don't need to send the soldiers in if you have all the data on a country," says Harari.

10:00 - In one of the first sessions of the WEF, Greta Thunberg said the voices of science and youth need to be at the center of the conversations on environment and future during “Forging a Sustainable Path towards a Common Future” panel discussion. 

Read more on her speech hereThunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos