Cora said the issue does not lie with how many deaths were reported, but simply that there were people affected who were hurting for an extended period of time.
He said: "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths".
"I was there a long time, there was a transformer fire and the power went out, when they started dying then?"
A report from George Washington University and the University of Puerto Rico concluded on August 29 that 2,975 likely died as a result of Hurricane Maria and the catastrophic conditions on the USA territory after the storm.
Researchers attributed undercounting of storm-related deaths to poor communications and the lack of well-established guidelines and training for physicians on how to certify deaths in major disasters.More news: National Hurricane Center Updates Current Status of Tropical Storm Florence
Trump's comment renewed criticism of the government's response to two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico previous year. His family, including twin boys born 14 months ago, was on the island when Hurricane Maria hit in September.
However, that figure wasn't good enough for U.S. President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Puerto Rican officials said about 20,000 pallets of water bottles shipped to Puerto Rico after Maria went unused and became too contaminated to drink.
Trump's tweets - which drew an offer from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to explain the methodology and a request for "respect" for the death - came as first responders were rescuing people from homes in flooded-out towns in the Carolinas.
"People appreciate what's been done", Trump said following the visit.
"The idea that a year after the fact we're complaining - look, we've gone back in and done a really pretty unbelievable job of trying to rebuild", said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), noting the island's infrastructure was in poor shape before the hurricane.More news: Week 1 setback doesn’t change anything for David Johnson and the Cardinals
"We agree that no estimates regarding loss of life have been inflated and we remain focused on ensuring a full recovery for the island and creating more economic opportunities for those arriving in Florida", Cortes said in an email.
Trump's latest grumbling on the Maria death toll comes as Tropical Storm Florence inundates the Carolinas, killing at least four people.
"The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country", Nelson wrote on Twitter - and shortly thereafter released the identical statement in Spanish.
Trump maintained as recently as Tuesday that his response to the storm was an "incredible unsung success".
"This is what denial following neglect looks like", declared San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz in response to Trump's tweets.
That number was produced by public health experts at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in a report commissioned by the US territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello.More news: Israeli army destroys huts built to oppose demolition of Khan al Ahmar