MIAMI, Sept 14, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - Eight residents of a Florida nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's power supply, the Sun-Sentinel reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper, citing the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, said the eight residents of the retirement home who died were between the ages of 71 years old and 99 years old. Officials had previously reported six deaths at the nursing home.
"It's a sad event," said Tomas Sanchez, the police chief in Hollywood, the city north of Miami where the retirement facility is located.
"We believe at this time they may be related to the loss of power in the storm," Sanchez told a news conference.
Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a statement saying he was "absolutely heartbroken" to learn of the deaths of the elderly retirees.
"I am going to aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place," Scott said in a statement.
"Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable," he said.
The governor said he has ordered a probe by state authorities.
"If they find that anyone wasn't acting in the best interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law," he said.
Sanchez, the police chief, said a criminal investigation had been launched.
Dr. Randy Katz, medical director of the emergency department at Memorial Regional Hospital, said the hospital began receiving patients early on Wednesday.
"(We) quickly identified some issues inside the facility with fire rescue and immediately evacuated the building," Katz said.
A total of around 115 residents were moved out of the retirement home, which has been without air conditioning for days, according to officials.
Katz said most of the patients admitted to the hospital have been treated for respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related issues.
The eight deaths would take the death toll in Florida from the hurricane, which made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning, to at least 20.
The storm left millions without power across Florida.