MIAMI – The death toll from Hurricane Irma's catastrophic rampage across the Caribbean and the southeastern U.S. has risen to 44 fatalities directly caused by its strong winds and heavy rains, plus 85 fatalities indirectly linked to the storm, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Eighty of the deaths indirectly linked to the hurricane came in Florida, caused by falls during storm preparations, vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, chain saw accidents and electrocutions, the report said.
Fourteen people who died at a Broward County nursing home that lost power and air conditioning after the storm were included in the tally of indirect deaths in Florida. In an email Monday, officials with Florida's Division of Emergency Management said they had counted 11 deaths at the nursing home among 84 storm-related deaths in the state. Twelve fatalities at the nursing home are being investigated as homicides.
Most of the direct deaths occurred in the Caribbean. The report said seven happened on the U.S. mainland: In Florida, two people died when their tent became submerged in freshwater flooding, one man fell in a canal while checking on his boat during the hurricane, and a gust of wind caused one man to fall and hit his head after opening his front door during the storm. Falling trees were blamed for two deaths in Georgia and one in South Carolina.
Hundreds of people were injured before, during or after the hurricane, which prompted evacuation orders for nearly 7 million in multiple states, the report said.
Irma made a total of seven landfalls, including four as a Category 5 hurricane. Damage estimates throughout the Caribbean could top $3 billion, according to the hurricane center.
The damage included leaving the small island of Barbuda nearly uninhabitable and destroying most schools and severely damaging the only hospital on the island of Anguilla. Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane to hit Cuba in nearly a century, directly causing nine deaths, damaging tens of thousands of homes and destroying hundreds of poultry farms.
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association reported last month that huge numbers of hotels remained closed on islands directly blasted by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has already ranked Irma among the top five most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history, causing $50 billion in damage, mostly in Florida.
The damage was the most severe in the Florida Keys, where Irma struck as a Category 4 hurricane, according to the hurricane center's report. However, Irma's massive wind field and heavy rains also caused widespread tree and power line damage statewide, along with significant losses in orange groves and record-breaking flooding in Jacksonville.
Irma also spawned 25 tornadoes, according to the report: four in South Carolina and the rest in Florida.