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Irma uncovers precarious housing and assisted living conditions in Florida

The death of eight people in a nursing home in Hollywood, north of Miami, which ran out of electricity and, therefore, had no air conditioning because of Hurricane Irma, has exposed the precarious housing situation and state assisted housing.

Today several people were evacuated from another senior residence, the Williamsburg Landing, in Wilton Manors, near Fort Lauderdale, also affected by the lack of electricity and the consequent insane heat that occurs in closed places when the outside temperature is over 30 degrees centigrade (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity is high.

Police, who have opened an investigation into what happened at the so-called Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center in Broward County, have attributed the deaths of the elderly to the heat, while relatives and acquaintances of the deceased lamented today that something like this may have happened and asked for responsibilities to be determined.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez today visited a nursing home in the Little Havana area, where there is no electricity either, with all that entails.

“We have elderly people who are (on floors) tall and do not have air conditioning, but electricity is going to be restored today in the afternoon, as confirmed by FPL (the electricity company),” he told reporters there congregated.

Giménez noted that the county is “planning to completely renovate the building, with new codes and amenities so that it does not happen again with another hurricane.”

In Florida, a state where about 1.6 million people are at least 75 years of age, according to 2015 data from the US Census Bureau, a situation such as that created by Irma’s clash is even more serious for the elderly living in residences and assisted living.

Half of them have some disability and problems walking, climbing stairs, bathing or dressing, so fixing the elevators, which are out of operation due to lack of electricity, is one of the essential requirements to get back to normal.

Four days after Irma’s arrival in Florida at the Robert King High Towers residential complex in Miami, despite “there was no serious problem,” according to Efe, the president of the neighborhood association, many of the 1,200 residents continue to be held in their floors without food or water, because they can not use the elevators.

Despite the lack of electricity, civil aid “could not be better,” says Ángel González, a resident of the building, adding that “we do not lack ice, so we will not condemn anyone.”

Other elderly residents in two Miami social protection twin buildings also go through an ordeal, in this case for not having a roof, as the towers were evicted last Saturday.

Residents of the Civic Towers, mostly senior citizens, had to evacuate “by force and escorted by the police,” says Idania, a tenant who claims that “representatives of the owners opened the windows to get water in during the hurricane, the building would get wet and had what they wanted, more government funds.”

Two older adults share a bench outside the Robert King Hight Tower condominium today, Thursday, September 14, 2017, in Miami (USA). EFE

The more than 300 families of the Civic Towers, in the neighborhood of Allapattah, have been sleeping in their cars for four days, because they are banned from access, says María Elena Guerreiro, a neighbor who has not hesitated to approach and offer her help. the affected.

“Those living in these buildings are living a nightmare since June,” when authorities condemned the building, with the idea of ​​collapsing it and building another.

Juan Rodriguez, a neighbor of the towers, says that “it’s not a hurricane story alone”. Days before Irma arrived, “the police evacuated us and assured us that our stay in the shelters would last three days,” he said.

“They took advantage of the situation to get us out. They say the building is doomed, it will be destroyed and raised again, but we are sleeping on the street, without money, food and water,” Rodriguez said. access to his house, “escorted by two policemen”, to get some clothes.

Irma, who landed in Florida last weekend as a Category 5 hurricane, has not only caused material damage, but has also opened a social divide in one of the states with the highest concentration of elderly people in the United States. UU.

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