Obama Visits Flood Ravaged Louisiana

Associated Press

Standing amid piles of waterlogged debris, President Barack Obama on Tuesday promised a sustained national effort to rebuild flood-ravaged southern Louisiana “even after the TV cameras leave” on a visit aimed in part at stemming campaign-season criticism that he’s been slow to respond to the disaster.

As he toured a battered neighborhood and spoke to reporters, Obama reassured residents that the federal response would be robust and he tried to buck up beleaguered residents of the water-soaked region, many of whom have said they feel their plight has been ignored by national officials and the media.

“This is not a one-off, this is not a photo-op issue,” the president said in a statement to reporters. “I need all Americans to stay focused on this … I know you will rebuild again.”

Obama’s visit was a reminder of the political dangers and opportunities that natural disasters can pose. The president has been criticized for waiting until after this New England vacation to tour the flooding. The timing, coming amid a heated presidential campaign, drew criticism from some local officials and Republicans political opponents, including GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump made the visit to Baton Rouge on Friday.

Obama told reporter he doesn’t “worry too much” about politics and said he saw Americans coming together to help.

The president walked past mattresses, appliances and heaps of clothing tossed out on the curb in a middle-class neighborhood in East Baton Rouge Parish, where few homes were spared from late-summer storms that killed at least 13 people in the region and displaced thousands.

The storms and flooding have damaged an estimated 60,000 homes and forced thousands to seek temporary housing. More than 115,000 people have registered for federal disaster aid, with the state saying $20 million has been distributed to individuals so far. At least 40 state highways remained closed.

Going door-to-door and trailed by cameras, he offered sympathy to residents as they took a break from the cleanup to talk about the damage.

“I wish I was coming at a better time,” he told one resident, as he put his arm around her and walked into her home for a brief tour. “But I’m glad to see everybody is safe, at least.”


Image: President Barack Obama reaches to shake hands with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, after arriving in Baton Rouge, La., to survey flood damage. AP /  Susan Walsh