FEMA administrator says Puerto Rico hurricane death toll numbers are ‘all over the place’ | National politics

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WASHINGTON • Embattled FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long said Sunday that the figures for how many people died as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year are “all over the place,” in remarks that echoed President Donald Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on a sweeping study showing a death toll of nearly 3,000.
“It’s hard to tell what’s accurate and what’s not,” Long said in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” He made similar remarks in appearances on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” and CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Long also did not dispute Trump’s incorrect claim that Democrats raised the death toll to make the president “look as bad as possible,” telling NBC’s Chuck Todd, “I don’t know why the studies were done.”
He cast doubt on a George Washington University study, suggesting that researchers took into account deaths due to a range of causes with tenuous links to Hurricane Maria, such as automobile crashes and domestic violence.
“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 stoplights weren’t working. … Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can’t blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anybody,” Long said on “Meet the Press.”
He contended that the crucial figure is “direct deaths – which is the wind, the water and the waves, buildings collapsing.”

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Maria's death toll climbed long after rain stopped


In this Sept. 4, 2018 photo, Maria Gonzalez Munoz, right, and Juan Manuel Gonzalez, pose with an image of Jesus surrounded by photos of her sister Ramona, when she was sick and during her funeral, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ramona, a disabled, 59-year-old who suffered from a degenerative brain disease, did not drown when Hurricane Maria drenched Puerto Rico, but instead she died a month later from sepsis, caused, says her family, by an untreated bedsore. Maria spent 30 days after the storm caring for her sister in her blacked-out home. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

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