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 some of the flood-ravaged areas and meet with local Republican leaders.
The visit came after days of criticism of President Barack Obama from some in Louisiana for not visiting the southern state reeling from the aftermath of massive flooding.
Some 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 first met with disaster relief volunteers at a church outside of the state capital Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’s office said it was not informed of Trump’s visit. It welcomed the candidate, “but not for a photo-op.”
“Instead, we hope he’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA (Louisiana) Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm,” a statement read.
The president stayed on vacation during the disaster, including playing golf on Wednesday, but was said to be getting daily updates on the situation.
“Obama should recognise that leadership involves symbolism as well as substance. In times of profound need, people need to see their president up close,” The Advocate newspaper said in an editorial.
But Edwards has indicated he would prefer Obama to wait at least a week before touring the affected areas, because such a visit would require heavy security, and would pull away law enforcement officers currently working on disaster recovery effort.
The newspaper did give credit to the president for quickly responding when the state requested a federal disaster designation for much of its southern areas.
Obama granted the designation to 20 of the state’s 64 parishes — Louisiana’s equivalent to counties.
The president also sent surrogates to monitor and help in the disaster response, including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
On Thursday, Johnson was pressed by reporters about whether he would urge the president to visit the state.
“When you’re the chief executive of the entire US government, you can’t be everywhere, including places you would like to be,” Johnson responded. “I can tell you he has been closely monitoring the situation.”