At least eight elderly residents died at a Florida nursing home which went powerless after Hurricane Irma hit the region, leaving its inhabitants without air conditioning. Police said they have opened a probe into possible criminal negligence.

US police wraps crime scene tape around the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Florida, US, September 13, 2017. (Reuters)
US police wraps crime scene tape around the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Florida, US, September 13, 2017. (Reuters)

At least eight residents of a Florida nursing home which has been without power since Hurricane Irma have died and more than 100 have been evacuated, officials said on Wednesday.

"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.

The power losses had fatal consequences at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hill. 

Three elderly residents were found dead on Wednesday inside the sweltering facility, which had been left without air conditioning, officials said. 

Five more patients from the nursing home later died at a nearby hospital, they said.

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.

Police chief Sanchez said a criminal investigation had been launched.

"The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation inside," he told reporters on Wednesday. "It was very hot on the second floor."

TRT World's Arabella Munro has more on the story. 

More than 100 residents at the nursing home were transferred to neighboring branches of Memorial Regional Hospital, along with patients from a nearby facility that also was evacuated due to the police investigation, Hollywood city officials said.

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 from the retirement home, 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 deaths would take the death toll in Florida from the hurricane, which made landfall in the Florida Keys on Saturday night, to at least 20.

The storm left millions without power across Florida.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies