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IRMA AFTERMATH | US Virgin Islands getting aid, but still reeling from Irma


Published: Wed, September 13, 2017 @ 6:27 p.m.

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — The last of the late-summer tourists were gone today from the U.S. Virgin Islands, ferried away from the wreckage of Hurricane Irma in cruise ships bound for Puerto Rico and Miami.

Most part-time residents – and anyone else who didn't have to stay – had cleared out as well, back to homes on the mainland with water, power and Internet, and where food isn't scarce.

Those left behind on St. Thomas and St. John were surviving on whatever they could find as they tried to repair or secure their houses with whatever materials were available. They had to dodge downed power lines that snaked through hills that were a deep green before the storm but had been so stripped of leaves and trees that they were brown and desolate.

Many were surviving on military rations handed out by U.S. Marines and the National Guard or at a local church that was serving 500 people per day.

"What I see are people coming who are hungry, who are tired, who are thirsty and need help," said the Rev. Jeff Neevel, the pastor of the St. Thomas Reformed Church in the Virgin Islands capital, Charlotte Amalie. "It's a destruction zone. Everything is destroyed. Everything."

His church got power Tuesday for the first time since the storm hit a week earlier, thanks to the fact it had been designated an official food-distribution center. Rev. Mr. Neevel said one of the most critical needs he sees was for tarps to protect the many homes that had lost roofs. People were also desperate for power and water so they could get back to work and return to some sense of normalcy.

"The village where I live is devastated," said Dominique Olive, a 63-year-old from French Town, along St. Thomas' southern coast. "There are people I've known for many, many years. Everything they have is gone."

Olive said there has been some "disgusting" looting and desperation but also hopeful signs. "We are helping each other. It doesn't matter which color you are, we are all helping each other," he said as he walked through Charlotte Amalie shortly after the curfew was lifted at noon.

•••

5:30 p.m.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Eight patients at a sweltering nursing home died after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, raising fears today about the safety of Florida's 4 million senior citizens amid power outages that could go on for days.

Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: "The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation."

Gov. Rick Scott called on Florida emergency workers to immediately check on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make sure patients are safe, and he ordered an investigation into the deaths.

"This situation is unfathomable," he said.

The home said in a statement that the hurricane had knocked out a transformer that powered the AC.

Exactly how the deaths happened was under investigation, with Sanchez saying authorities have not ruled anything out, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. He also said investigators will look into how many windows were open.

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

"It's a sad state of affairs," the police chief 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."

The deaths came as people trying to put their lives back together in hurricane-stricken Florida and beyond confronted a multitude of new hazards in the storm's aftermath, including tree-clearing accidents and lethal fumes from generators.


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