Chicago: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visited Louisiana on Friday, as rescue crews and residents of the US state worked to recover from historic floods that left 13 people dead.
Trump and his vice presidential nominee Mike Pence toured flood-ravaged areas and met with local Republican leaders and emergency officials. US President Barack Obama meanwhile announced he is headed to Louisiana on Tuesday, after days of criticism from some in the southern state for not visiting.
Officials said about 40,000 homes were impacted by inundating waters and more than 86,000 people had so far registered for federal aid — with that number expected to grow.
Trump and Pence met with disaster relief volunteers, toured damaged structures, met an elderly couple who said they had to climb to the roof of their home to escape floodwaters, and joined a short briefing with emergency officials.
During one stop, Trump reportedly criticized Obama for remaining on vacation during the disaster, including playing golf on Wednesday. “The president says he doesn’t want to come, he is trying to get out of a golf game,” Trump said, according to ABC News.
However, the White House said that Obama is being “mindful of the impact that his travel has on first responders and wants to ensure that his presence does not interfere with ongoing recovery efforts.”
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley, who said he was in the official briefing Trump attended, told CNN that the candidate’s visit helped bring much-needed national attention to the disaster.
“I will tell you he was very gracious and a good listener,” Wiley said. As the catastrophe unfolded over the past seven days, many local and state officials lamented the lack of national media coverage which would help bring more donations for victims.
The first financial analysis of the disaster released Friday by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, an economic development group, suggested that the flood impact may be greater than first thought.
It said as many as 110,000 homes worth $20.7 billion — most without flood insurance — were likely damaged in about half of the flooded parishes.
During Trump’s visit, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put out a statement saying she had spoken with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and urged people to donate to the relief effort. “Right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions,” Clinton said.
“The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need.”