FEMA administrator Brock Long warned that the damage caused by Hurricane Florence "will be ugly, but we will get over it" when the areas of North and South Carolina are heading for the fourth day of incessant rains.
"Unfortunately, the event is still unfolding over the next 48 hours," Long told Meet the Press presenter Chuck Todd about the hurricane turned into a tropical depression on Sunday morning.
As of now, Long said emergency personnel are focusing on life-saving efforts amid reports that the death toll has risen to 14, with 10 killed in North Carolina and three killed in South Carolina.
& # 39;[There are] 1,300 people in the field doing search and rescue, supporting our state and local capacities, from the National Guard to the rapid local water rescues, "said Long." They have carried out several hundred evacuations and rescues in isolated areas. "
However, Long said rescue efforts have been hampered by the fact that the storm has essentially been stationed in the region.
"We have to wait for the dangerous elements associated with the storm to leave the area before we can send our people," he said. & # 39; We never want to put our own people in danger & # 39;
Meanwhile, marines, coastguards, civilian crews and volunteers have been doing everything possible with helicopters, boats and heavy vehicles to help communities devastated by flash floods, storms and high winds.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that Florence's damage so far has been as extensive as expected, and said: "The National Hurricane Center did a phenomenal job of informing people almost a week before. of what was to come.
"Everything you have been predicting, the storm surge, the rise of the oceans, the coastal flood, was done." You saw that the ocean rose between nine and 11 feet, causing much damage along the coast and in the bays behind and in the entrance areas of the Pamlico Sound.
And now what you are seeing is that we are seeing actual rainfall in 30 inches or more in some areas. Therefore, we are seeing damage very much, you know, as predicted, unfortunately & # 39;
One of the biggest obstacles facing officials at this time is the worsening of floods in the interior, which has closed several major roads and blocked access to remote areas that need assistance.
"The frustrating thing about a flood like this in North Carolina, or in South Carolina too, is that you have to wait for the water to recede in some cases for people to come back or fix the infrastructure," Long said. .
He added that the agency is working on alternative routes to bring supplies to the affected areas of the coast.
"We just need to make sure we meet the demands of caring for people in shelters," he said.
A rescue team with the US Coast Guard UU It can be seen in the middle of a flooded road in Newport, North Carolina, on Friday after the tropical depression of Florence hit
US Marine Corp helps evacuate the local population in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on Saturday
Maggie Belgie from The Cajun Navy takes a boy evacuating a flooded trailer community during Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Saturday
A fallen tree uprooted by Hurricane Florence is next to homes in New Bern, North Carolina
Long congratulated North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Director of the Division of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry for their strong responses to the storm.
"We are meeting their demands as they are getting closer to us, and we will overcome this," he said of the leaders.
It's going to be ugly, but we'll get over it. Recovery is always a very frustrating process for people when they have lost their livelihood, but we will be fine. "
Subsequently, Todd asked Long if FEMA was using the lessons learned after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last fall, referring to a comment by Donald Trump this week, which seemed to say that there was no idea to get out of the catastrophic storm of the island.
"I think the president is being taken out of context there," Long said. "I spoke with the president every day this week, and with the Secretary of Homeland Security, and we discussed what we are trying to do as a result of last year. He is very aware of that.
Long went on to suggest that the reason why the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico were so abysmal was because FEMA did not have much help in the weeks after the storm.
"What is happening with Puerto Rico is that the response and recovery in case of disaster is a joint effort of the community team," he said.
You have to have someone from the neighbor helping the neighbor until the response from the federal government.
"I'll be honest, FEMA was the first person to respond and the only one who responded to Puerto Rico for many weeks."
President Trump, left, and Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, listen to a briefing on Hurricane Florence by Long, downtown, a few days before the storm made landfall last week.
Trump tweeted in support of the recovery efforts of federal officials on Friday after the storm
The president also cited a compliment from his FEMA administrator Long the Saturday
The second half of the 10-minute interview focused specifically on the controversy surrounding the recovery efforts in the territory of the island where Maria's death toll has been estimated at 3,000 people.
In response to Trump's multiple tweets that dispute the death toll, Todd said: "According to the government of Puerto Rico, 2,975 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria or the impact of Hurricane Maria." FEMA accepts that number?
Long replied: "The numbers are everywhere. FEMA does not count deaths. The deaths that are verified by local county forensics are the ones we take.
Todd then asked why the White House is concerned about the discrepancies in the number of deaths, to which Long replied: "One thing about President Trump is that he is probably the only president who has had more support for what happens here.
"I think he's on the defensive because he knows how hard these guys behind me work day after day for a very complex situation, and it's frustrating.
"There's too much guilt going around and we have to be focused, Chuck, on how Puerto Rico will look tomorrow."
Todd's last question addressed a Wall Street Journal article this week that claimed Trump was considering replacing Long as a manager at FEMA before Hurricane Florence struck due to the frequency of his trips home to North Carolina.
& # 39; Were you aware of this investigation? Are you cooperating? Todd asked.
"Oh, yes, absolutely," Long said. Let me continue and clarify all the news. Secretary Nielsen has never asked me to resign. We have a very functional and professional relationship. We talk every day. We both focus only on Florence. "
Asked if he had plans to resign, Long said, "No, no, no, no, I'm here to serve my country every day, that's all I do."