BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump toured flood-battered Louisiana on Friday, shrugging off its Democratic governor’s plea for politicians not to stop in areas affected by deadly rains.
President Barack Obama said he was also eager for a firsthand look at the devastation left by floods that damaged more than 40,000 homes and killed at least 13 people, announcing plans to visit Baton Rouge on Tuesday.
Obama’s travel requires a massive retinue of Secret Service agents and assistance from local and state law enforcement officials, so the White House usually waits to visit disaster zones to avoid tying up police and emergency resources needed elsewhere.
On Friday, Trump’s motorcade drove past piles of possessions and building materials that had been ripped out of flooded homes en route to Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in a hard-hit portion of East Baton Rouge Parish.
“You’re going to be fine,” Trump told several dozen supporters gathered outside, many asking for autographs and selfies.
The deluge that dumped more than 2½ feet on parts of Louisiana has been described as the worst U.S. disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Trump told reporters he came to help out, joined by vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in a visit to a state that is typically a Republican stronghold in presidential elections.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office, however, had said Trump did not call to discuss plans.
“We welcome him to (Louisiana), but not for a photo op,” the governor’s office said in a statement, urging Trump to volunteer or make “a sizable donation.”
Trump told reporters he believed Obama should have cut short a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in New England to visit the area of flood devastation.
Some Louisianans and others, using the hashtag #wheresobama and #laflood on Twitter, had urged Obama to visit, and Baton Rouge’s newspaper, The Advocate, voiced a similar view in an editorial published on Wednesday.
Obama’s vacation is due to end on Sunday. The White House said the president’s advisers had determined, in consultation with state officials, that Tuesday was an appropriate time to visit.
“The president is 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,” the White House said in a statement.
Obama planned to visit Baton Rouge, the state’s capital city, which saw wide flooding. The White House said he would talk to local officials about what more the federal government can do to assist in the recovery.
The president has declared much of the state a federal disaster, freeing up emergency resources.
He has been receiving updates from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, who both have visited Louisiana.
In 2005, then-President George W. Bush, a Republican, drew criticism for flying over extensively damaged New Orleans, Louisiana, and then giving a speech in the still-flooded city after Hurricane Katrina.
Some 86,500 people have already filed for federal aid after the historic levels of rainfall. The state expected 4,000 would still need refuge in shelters on Friday night. Entire neighborhoods must now contend with flood-hit homes.
“We’re talking about an awful lot of people, which is why we are trying to turn on the assistance as soon as possible,” Edwards said at a news conference on Friday afternoon, offering details on temporary housing.
He spoke earlier in the day with Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, she said on social media.
“My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions,” she said on Facebook, directing people to support organizations providing assistance.
Yet Kellie Michelli, who lost her home in the flood and was also at the church to pick up food with her family, beamed as she showed off an autograph on a Trump hat from an earlier rally in Baton Rouge.
“He took time out of his busy schedule to come here,” Michelli said. “I don’t care if he gives a nickel, he showed he cared by coming here.”