The flooding damaged more than 40,000 homes and killed at least 13 people
Some have called on President Barack Obama to cut short his vacation and visit the area
Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, spent part of Friday touring flood damage in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The visit drew a contrast with President Barack Obama, who was criticized for not cutting short his summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to visit the stricken region. The White House announced Friday afternoon that Obama will visit the area on Tuesday, after his vacation concludes.
The Republican presidential ticket traveled down miles of roads where the receding flood waters are leaving behind ruined homes and heaps of residents’ possessions.
After Trump and Pence toured the flood damage, they went to Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, to meet with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.
Trump and Pence also met volunteers and were cheered by the crowd in front of Samaritan’s Purse mobile kitchen. Perkins pointed out that Obama, in contrast to Trump, was not present.
The candidates later spoke with a Florida couple, Jimmy and Olive Morgan, who told them about their experience with the flood. They told Trump they spent Jimmy’s 79th birthday on a roof.
Trump and Pence then stopped at Denham Springs High School, where they surveyed the damage and met with a few people, including the school’s principal, Kelly Jones. Soon after, they traveled to nearby St. Amant and met with Ascension Parish officials in a trailer. Trump and Pence helped hand out supplies to the crowd and then Trump went into a room to thank National Guard members.
While in Denham Springs, he encountered a woman who thanked him for coming.
“We’re glad you’re not playing golf in Martha’s Vineyard. That’s all we can say,” the woman shouted to Trump.
The real estate mogul responded, “Somebody is. Somebody is that shouldn’t be.”
Clinton calls Edwards
The mammoth flooding in the area – 6.9 trillion gallons of rain pummeled Louisiana between August 8 and 14 – damaged more than 40,000 homes and killed at least 13 people. More than 70,000 people had registered for individual assistance since the federal disaster was declared, and more than 9,000 had filed flood insurance claims, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office released a statement before the arrival that said Trump had not reached out to inform them of his visit.
“We welcome (Trump) to (Louisiana), but not for a photo-op. Instead we hope he’ll consider volunteering or making a sizeable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called Edwards to get a briefing on the damage, and posted shortly afterward on Facebook about their call.
“My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions. The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need,” she wrote in the post. “These are our friends, our family members, our community – and they’re counting on us to reach out with open arms right now.”
Earlier in the week, Obama had been called on by Republicans and some in Louisiana to cut short his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to visit Baton Rouge.
“A disaster this big begs for the personal presence of the President at ground zero,” read an editorial published in the Baton Rouge-based Advocate on Thursday calling on Obama to cut short his Martha’s Vineyard vacation. “In coming here, the President can decisively demonstrate that Louisiana’s recovery is a priority for his administration – and the United States of America.”
In its statement announcing the President’s visit, the White House said Obama was “eager to get a first-hand look at the impact of the devastating floods and hear from more officials about the response, including how the federal government can assist and tell the people of Louisiana that the American people will be with them as they rebuild their community and come back stronger than ever.”
CNN’s Dan Merica, Kevin Liptak, Holly Yan and Naomi Lim contributed reporting.