Six die in US nursing home that Irma left without power
Hurricane Irma claimed eight more lives yesterday, including six patients at a Florida nursing home that lost power, as millions struggled without electricity and residents trickled back 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 70 people.
At least 27 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 US mainland this season.
Some 4.3 million homes and businesses, or about nine million people, were without power at noon yesterday in Florida and nearby states.
Police opened a criminal investigation at the Rehabilitation Centre of Hollywood Hills, where three elderly residents were found dead at the facility and three later died at a hospital.
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.
"The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation inside," Hollywood Police Chief Thomas Sanchez said.
Prolonged power outages remained a risk for the elderly through the region, he said.
Florida Power and 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.
The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit by Irma, with federal officials saying that 25pc of homes were destroyed and 65pc suffered major damage when Irma barrelled ashore on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 215kmh.
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.
"I don't have a house. I don't have a job. I have nothing," said Mercedes Lopez (50), whose family fled north from the Keys town of Marathon on Friday and rode out the storm at an Orlando hotel, only to learn their home was destroyed, along with the fuel station where Ms Lopez worked.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) administrator Brock Long warned that life on the Keys would remain tough. "Citizens are frustrated about not being able to get the support they need right now," he told CNN. "That's exactly why we asked them to leave."
Three people died of carbon monoxide poisoning, including children aged 13 and 16, after a portable gas generator was left running inside an Orlando-area house, the Orange County Sheriff's office said yesterday. Four others from the house were hospitalised.
US President Donald Trump is due to visit the region today. Irma wreaked total devastation in parts of the Caribbean, where at least 43 people died.
People who fled their homes in hard-hit islands including St Martin and the US Virgin Islands, that were all but cut off from the world for days, arrived in San Juan late Tuesday.
Michael Benson (65), of St John in the US Virgin Islands, said he lost everything.
"My house, my business, both my vehicles, everything is gone," said Mr Benson, who was stopping in San Juan before continuing to Boston to seek refuge with his wife's brother.
"But we have life. We rode out that horrible storm in a shower that I had reinforced after Hurricane Marilyn," he said. "I told the man [who installed the shower], I told him, 'If the hurricane takes the rest of my house, I want this shower sticking up out of that slab like the last tooth in the mouth of a bum'. And sure enough that's what's left."
Irma hit the United States two weeks after Hurricane Harvey ploughed into Houston, killing about 60 and causing $180bn (€151bn) in damage, mostly from flooding.