Floridians are returning to their homes and businesses amid the destruction left by fierce Hurricane Irma that also ravaged several states in the southeast US and islands in the Caribbean.
So far, there has been 61 confirmed deaths caused by Hurricane Irma, with 38 in the Caribbean and 23 in the US as of Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
There are still more than 3.2 million homes and businesses without power in Florida as of Wednesday at 6:00pm EST, according to the Florida State Emergency Response Team.
Since Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) said more than 3 million homes and businesses have had power restored, with around a third of the state still without electricity.
Florida Power & Light estimates that they will have power restored to all their customers along the east coast of the state by September 17, and for their customers along the west coast by September 22.
Over the course of the record breaking storm, nearly 7 million people were ordered to evacuate from their homes. On Wednesday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reported more than 8,000 residents and nearly 4,000 more special needs patients were still in shelters across the state.
President Donald Trump has announced he will visit Florida on Thursday to survey the extent of the damage and meet with the Coast Guard, FEMA and other first responders.
The White House Press Secretary told reporters Wednesday that Trump will be in the Naples and Fort Myers area, but did not provide any specific details about what stops the president plans to make.
Irma was a massive storm with maximum winds of 185 miles per hour, the second strongest winds of any hurricane in the Atlantic, according to Colorado State University. The university said Irma sustained those high wind speeds for 37 hours, breaking the world record for any cyclone around the globe to have maintained such intensity for so long.
The National Weather Service (NWS) continues to issue flood warnings for parts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina as of Wednesday.
The the Miami Herald reports that 31 state agencies said the storm has cost Florida around $250 million in preparation and recovery costs so far.
AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe modeling analyst firm, estimates that the final damage from Irma will range from $20 billion to $40 billion in the US alone.
In the aftermath of the storm, police have begun criminal investigations into the deaths of eight individuals at a Florida nursing home that lost power in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
8 patients from the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center are now confirmed dead. More information to be released soon.
— HollywoodFL Police (@HollywoodFLPD) September 13, 2017
Police said three of the residents at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were found dead when they arrived, while another five have reportedly died since then, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators believe the deaths were heat-related, Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said, adding that the building has been sealed off as investigators conduct a criminal investigation.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Sanchez said. “We all have elderly people in facilities, and we all know we depend on those people in those facilities to care for a vulnerable elderly population.”
Sanchez said that all 158 patients have been moved from the facility to local hospitals.
Governor Scott has asked first responders to check in with healthcare facilities in their area and “make sure nursing homes and assisted living facilities are able to keep their residents safe.”
“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 health,” Scott said in a statement.
Scott said if investigators find the facility was not meeting the state standards of care, they will be “held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” He added that all of Florida’s 309 hospitals currently have power or are running on generator power.