Obama surveys hurricane damage in Louisiana

Stopover comes two days after Republican rival Mitt Romney's visit, and a day before Democratic convention's opening.

    Obama surveys hurricane damage in Louisiana
    Obama praised the 'enormous faith' of families trying to rebuild their lives after Isaac's damage [Reuters]

    Barack Obama, the US president, has altered his travel plans to make a stopover in the hurricane-affected Gulf state of Louisiana.

    Monday's stop in the state, where residents are still trying to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, comes a day before Michelle Obama, the first lady, opens the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    "Our biggest priority is helping to house people who have been displaced and making sure that they have got the resources they need to re-enrol their kids in school, make sure that they are able to get to their jobs, make sure that they can have the kind of support that they need to get restarted," Obama told the assembled residents gathered at the Saint John the Baptish Parish.

    Isaac, a Category 1 storm, has killed seven, swamped low-lying areas of the state, and dumped more than 30cm of rain on its way north.

    Residents were beginning the lengthy task of cleaning up their homes - sweeping out mud and debris and dragging out waterlogged carpet and furniture.

    Obama praised the resilience of the people he met in the area.

    "There is enormous faith here, enormous strength here, you could see it with these families. They were just devastated a few days ago and they are already smiling and laughing and feeling confident about the future and pulling together," he said.

    Isaac's tidal surge and heavy rains, which lasted days, pushed water into areas of south Louisiana that do not typically flood, and brought record water levels into areas prone to flooding.

    Ed Powell, 47, said he hoped Obama could resolve the situation, but stressed it would take time.

    "I'm pretty sure he's going to have a plan, usually when he acts on something things get done," said Powell, taking a break from chopping fallen trees in his garden.

    Makeshift relief centre

    Powell said he had more than a foot of water in his house, which has not been inundated in the 15 years he has lived there.

    Many other local residents stood in line at a makeshift relief centre set up under a tent in a nearby car park.

    Officials were giving out shampoo, soap, shaving gel, razors, toothpaste and other toiletries.

    Dawn Brady, 43, had nearly 1.2 metres of water in her house, which had never flooded before.

    "President Obama should be here," she said. "This is a disaster. I'd be disappointed if he wasn't here."

    Despite his trip coming two days after Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, his Republican rivals, Obama stressed that political differences did not matter when faced with setbacks that affect everyone.

    "When disasters like this happen, we set aside whatever petty disagreements we may have, nobody is a Democrat or Republican, we are just Americans looking out for one another," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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