Hollywood, Fla. — Florida seniors were ushered out of stifling assisted-living centers Thursday while caregivers fought a lack of air conditioning with Popsicles and cool compresses after eight people died at a nursing home in the post-hurricane heat.
Dozens of the state’s senior centers still lacked electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and several facilities were forced to evacuate. While detectives sought clues to the deaths, emergency workers went door to door to look for anyone else who was at risk.
Fifty-seven residents were moved from a suburban Fort Lauderdale assisted-living facility without power to two nearby homes where power had been restored. Owner Ralph Marrinson said all five of his Florida facilities lost electricity after Irma. Workers scrambled to keep patients cool with emergency stocks of ice and Popsicles.
“FPL has got to have a better plan for power,” he said, referring to the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light. “We’re supposed to be on a priority list, and it doesn’t come and it doesn’t come, and frankly it’s very scary.”
Stepped-up safety checks were conducted around the state after eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which shocked Florida’s top leaders as they surveyed destruction from the punishing storm.
Older people can be more susceptible to heat because their bodies do not adjust to temperatures as well as those of younger people. They do not sweat as much and are more likely to have medical conditions that change how the body responds to heat. They are also more likely to take medication that affects body temperature.
Most people who die from high body temperature, known as hyperthermia, are over 50, according to the National Institutes of Health.
President Donald Trump traveled to Florida Thursday to tour damage caused by Irma, the third time in three weeks he’s visited an area devastated by a natural disaster.
Trump’s helicopter flew over neighborhoods still flooded and homes with roofs partially peeled away. Later, in a motorcade, he passed a gas station with a line of about 30 cars waiting for fuel.
At a stop at a mobile home park, Trump promised, “We are there for you 100 percent. I’ll be back here numerous times.”
Since last month, Trump has traveled to Texas twice and to Louisiana to view damage from Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm and dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston. As Trump was touring Florida, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello announced in a Twitter post that the president will visit the island to “see firsthand effects” of Irma there. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he’ll be making the trip “at the end of next week or the following week.”
Statewide in Florida, 64 nursing homes were still waiting Thursday for full power, according to the Florida Health Care Association. The separate Florida Assisted Living Association said many of its South Florida members lacked electricity. The group was working on a precise count.
A day earlier near Orlando, firefighters helped relocate 122 people from two assisted-living centers that had been without power since the storm. And at the 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door to check on residents and bring ice, water and meals.
Including the nursing home deaths, at least 26 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.
Bloomberg News contributed.
Texas may seek $50B for Harvey
Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas expects to seek more than $50 billion in federal housing funding after Hurricane Harvey.
Abbott said at a news conference Thursday that those displaced by the storm can seek help via community development grants covering long-term housing needs as well as temporary costs while waiting for their homes to be repaired.
Congress already passed $15.3 billion for initial Harvey recovery.
Abbott said nearly 4,000 Texas homes and other facilities still don’t have power after Harvey, which killed more than 70 people. Fifty-two schools statewide suffered “catastrophic damage” and can’t reopen.
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