FEMA administrator Brock Long defended President Trump's recent statements about Puerto Rico on Sunday, claiming the numbers relating to the death toll from Hurricane Maria have been ‘all over the place.”
Trump had mocked one study that said that nearly 3,000 people have died from the disaster. An initial estimate found that 64 people had lost their lives.
“The numbers are all over the place,” Long told Chuck Todd of NBC’s "Meet the Press." “FEMA doesn't count deaths. And if you take what's going on with Florence, the deaths that are verified by the local county coroners are the ones that we take.”
A study done by George Washington University found that 2,975 deaths were connected to Hurricane Maria. The study had been commissioned by the Puerto Rican government.
Trump took aim at the study, tweeting that “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico.”
“When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” he wrote on Thursday. “As time went by, it did not go up by much. Then a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3,000.”
He blamed Democrats, writing that they wanted to make him look "as bad as possible."
"If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list," he wrote. "Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”
Long told NBC News on Sunday that he did not know why the studies were done. However, he said it is important to distinguish between "direct deaths" and "indirect deaths."
"You might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people have heart attacks due to stress, they fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the step lights weren’t working," he told Todd.