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Obama in flood-ravaged Louisiana: 'I don't worry too much about politics'

President Barack Obama deflected recent political criticism in flood-ravaged Louisiana on Tuesday, instead praising officials for their response to the disaster and calling on private citizens to help.

Obama said federal assistance to Louisiana flood recovery has already reached $127 million and more than 100,000 people have already applied for federal disaster aid. The flooding, which the American Red Cross said is the worst U.S. natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, has killed 13 people and displaced tens of thousands.

"You're not alone on this even after the TV cameras leave. The whole country is going to support you," Obama said from the flood-ravaged state.

President Barack Obama, flanked by elected officials delivers remarks after touring a flood-affected neighborhood in Zachary, Louisiana, August 23, 2016.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Barack Obama, flanked by elected officials delivers remarks after touring a flood-affected neighborhood in Zachary, Louisiana, August 23, 2016.

The Obama administration declared a federal disaster more than a week ago, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson have visited the state. Obama praised FEMA and state and local officials for their response, and said his priority is long-term help for people whose families or businesses were displaced by the flooding.

The $127 million distributed by the government includes "temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs and flood insurance payments," Obama added. For comparison, FEMA had given more than $11 billion to state, local and tribal governments for Sandy aid as of last fall.

The Red Cross said Monday that donations have come nowhere close to covering its costs in Louisiana. It has received about $7.8 million in donations and pledges, but estimates costs of about $30 million, it said in a statement.

Obama drew some criticism for not appearing in Louisiana until now, as he was on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who went to the state last week, has repeatedly bashed Obama for his delay in traveling there.

"One of the benefits of being five months short of leaving here is I don't worry too much about politics," Obama said about his dwindling time in office.

Obama said nobody affected by the floods "gives a hoot if you're a Democrat or a Republican."