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8 dead after Irma knocks out air conditioning at Florida nursing home

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(ABC News) — Eight people are dead after Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, according to ABC affiliate WPLG.

While the causes of their deaths were not immediately clear, the facility, Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, was evacuated due to the cooling issues.

Dr. Randy Katz, director of emergency services at Memorial Regional Hospital, which is next to the nursing home, alleged there were extremely hot temperatures on the nursing home’s second floor.

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said temperatures have climbed to over 90 degrees in the city and that half of Hollywood is without power.

An individual handling air conditioning for the facility told WPLG that a fuse was damaged during Hurricane Irma, resulting in cooling issues for the past few days. The facility itself has power, the individual said.

The Florida governor’s office said Department of Health officials were “in contact with Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services management and the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills over the past three days” and that “hospital administrators were advised to call 911 if they had any reason to believe that the health or safety of patients was at risk.” The governor’s office said on Tuesday “the facility reported to the AHCA [Agency for Health Care Administration] that they had power and access to fans and spot coolers.”

PHOTO: Hurricane Irma knocks out air conditioning at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Fla.Related Content: Storm Team 8 Hurricane Tracker

Officials said responders “found several patients in varying degrees of medical distress.” Three patients were found dead in the facility and others were “in need of immediate transport,” officials said. The other three deaths occurred at or en route to a hospital, police said.

All 115 patients from the rehabilitation center were evacuated to hospitals, officials said.

Most of the patients were treated for respiratory distress, dehydration, and heat-related issues, officials said, and about 12 of the 115 patients are in the emergency room.

Officials said 18 additional patients from a second adjoining facility were also being relocated due to the investigation, though these patients were “not medically compromised.”

The deaths are under investigation.Related Content: Tampa dodged Irma’s worst, but still at risk and unprepared

Police said a criminal investigation is underway and they are not ruling anything out.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement that he was “heartbroken” to learn of the deaths and he is “going to aggressively demand answers.”

“This situation is unfathomable,” Scott said. “Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe – especially patients that are in poor help.”

Scott said he has directed the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to work with law enforcement on an investigation. “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,” the governor said.

Scott said he is also asking available first responders to check with their local health facilities to make sure nursing homes are keeping their residents safe.

A representative for Larkin Community Hospital Behavioral Health Services did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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