BC-AP News Digest 7 am

Mary Della Ratta, 94, sits by a battery powered lantern in her home three days after Hurricane Irma knocked out power in Naples, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. "I don't know what to do. How am I going to last here?" said Della Ratta. The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat was down to 6.8 million. Utility officials warned it could take over a week for power to be fully restored. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The Associated Press

Hurricane-scarred Florida warily eyed the fate of its most vulnerable residents and emergency workers were urged to immediately check on those in nursing homes after eight people died in a scorching facility that lost its air conditioning in the storm.

Even in the face of a storm that shrouded nearly the entire state and had officials still piecing together its destruction, the news Wednesday from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills stood out, with victims as old as 99 among the dead and worries the count could grow.

"Unfathomable," Gov. Rick Scott said. "Inexcusable," Sen. Bill Nelson added.

Elsewhere in South Florida, other alarms were sounded for older residents. In Coral Gables, an apartment building was evacuated after authorities said its lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants. And at the huge, 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door in the 94-degree heat checking on residents and bringing ice, water and meals.

Though the number of people with electricity had drastically improved from earlier in the week, some 6.8 million people across the peninsula continued to wait for power, and utility officials warned it could take a week or more for all areas to be back up and running.

As the state continued to piece itself back together, President Donald Trump was due to visit Naples in southwestern Florida on Thursday.

Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 17 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm had passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.

In Hollywood, the Rehabilitation Center said the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the air conditioning. Broward County said the home alerted officials Tuesday that it had lost power, but when asked if it had any medical needs or emergencies, it did not request help.

Early Wednesday morning, after responding to three calls about patients there in distress, firefighters went through the facility and found three people dead and evacuated more than 150 patients to hospitals, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said.

By the afternoon, five more had died. Others were treated for dehydration, breathing difficulties and other heat-related problems.

Across the street from the stifling nursing home sat a fully air-conditioned hospital, Memorial Regional.

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