No power, no place to go for thousands of South Florida elderly after Irma

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Stranded without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma, thousands of South Florida seniors have found themselves trapped — in healthcare facilities, affordable housing apartments and planned retirement communities — without access to elevators, air conditioning, telephones and even medical devices.

An inconvenience for many, days-long power outages pose a danger to the elderly, particularly those who are frail, a threat underscored Wednesday by the deaths of eight residents at a Hollywood nursing home that had lost power during the storm.

“It’s criminal what they’re doing,” said Sonia Suarez, 72, president of the residents association for Martin Fine Villas, a Miami-Dade County-run public housing center with 62 disabled tenants.

Suarez uses a wheelchair, and she has been unable to recharge her electric wheelchair since the storm knocked out power to the center. Instead, she has been relying on a neighbor to push her wheelchair as she checks on other residents.

“There are a lot of people whose health is getting worse,” she said, “because they don’t have electricity.”

At least five Martin Fine residents have gone to the hospital since the storm hit, Suarez said. She was also worried about those who remained in the building.

“People are going to die here,” she said.

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