Washington, Aug 24 (IANS) US President Barack Obama on Monday promised federal aid to Louisiana to help the state fully recover from recent serious flooding that has taken at least 13 lives, emphasising that this is not about creating “a photo opp issue” in the affected areas, in response to the criticism he had received for not making this visit sooner.
Obama toured the Castle Place neighbourhood in Baton Rouge, moving among ruins and debris, including furniture, mattresses and many other objects damaged by the heavy rains and floodwaters that still inundate large zones in southern Louisiana, Efe news reported.
The lives of many people “have been upended by this flood. Local businesses have suffered some terrible damage. Families have…certainly lost possessions, priceless keepsakes”, said Obama in a brief speech after his tour of the neighbourhood.
“I want the people of Louisiana to know is that you’re not alone on this. Even after the TV cameras leave, the whole country is going to continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives are rebuilt,” he said.
In response to his critics, such as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have reproached him for not cutting short his summer vacation last week to visit Louisiana sooner, Obama said that this kind of disaster is not about coming to a location and creating a “photo opp”.
The important thing is, he said, “how do you make sure that a month…three months…six months from now, people still are getting the help that they need.”
He said that among the flood-affected residents of Baton Rouge and Louisiana, in general, “nobody gives a hoot whether you’re Democrat or Republican. What they care about is making sure…they start rebuilding as quick as possible”.
“That’s what they care about. That’s what I care about,” he added.
The flooding in Louisiana has damaged more than 60,000 homes and spurred more than 100,000 households to request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
The Red Cross estimates that the Louisiana flooding is the worst US natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and that some $30 million will be needed to handle recovery tasks, Efe news added.
Obama said that, so far, $127 million in federal aid had been distributed, mainly to guarantee that people can pay the rent on temporary residences after being driven from their homes, but also to make essential repairs and flood insurance premium payments.
Meanwhile, Trump made a quick visit to Baton Rouge last Friday with his running mate, Mike Pence, to speak with volunteers and those affected by the flooding.