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.


Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

Updated 17 January 2020

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

  • Identified Sudan as most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world
  • According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of the world’s nations witnessed a rise in unrest and violence in 2019 with the figure expected to rise in 2020, according to a study released earlier this week.

Verisk Maplecroft, a socio-economic and political analysis company, said in its index of global civil unrest that 47 of the world’s 195 countries were affected and that the number could hit 75 in the year ahead.

The UK-based consultancy firm identified Sudan as the most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world, which had previously been held by Yemen.

According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile and neither is expected to be “at peace” for at least two years its researchers claim.

“The reasons for the surge in violent unrest are complex and diverse. In Hong Kong, protests erupted in June 2019 over a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, However, the root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997,” the firm said.

“In Chile, protests have been driven by income inequality and high living costs but were triggered by a seemingly trivial 30-peso (USD0.04) increase in the price of metro tickets,” it added.

Other countries now considered hotbeds unrest include Lebanon, Nigeria and Bolivia. Asia and Africa are disproportionately represented with countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe also coming under the “extreme risk” label.

Since authoritarian leader Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in April, Sudan was gripped by protests, violence and killings as armed forces battled democracy supporters for control of the new government.

The index predicts that a further 28 countries examined will see a “deterioration in stability,” suggesting that nearly 40% of all countries will witness disruption and unrest at some point in 2020.

Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are all expected to see the sharpest rises in unrest, but the report highlights growing concern in the world’s biggest and most powerful countries as well.


Countries identified include the hugely influential nations of Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.