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In Louisiana Flooding, It’s Neighbor Helping Neighbor


President Barack Obama greets residents as he tours Castle Place, a flood-damaged area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama greets residents as he tours Castle Place, a flood-damaged area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Graham Kinchen had an emergency when a sandbag wall near his home began to fall apart.

The wall was protecting his house in Baton Rouge, Louisiana from the recent flooding.

He let people know about his problem on Facebook and by telephone. Within five minutes, friends gathered to help rebuild the wall.

The incident shows how neighbors have helped each other in response to the recent flooding in Baton Rouge and nearby communities. Baton Rouge is the capital of the southern state of Louisiana.

Storms and flooding hit the area from August 8th to 14th. Thirteen people were killed and about 100,000 homes were damaged. Thousands of people are homeless. Many are staying in shelters or the homes of friends or family.

Spirit of Cooperation

“We have seen a great spirit of cooperation, with neighbors, churches and friends pitching in,” said Peter Kovacs, editor of The Advocate, the daily newspaper in Baton Rouge.“ Many of us have unexpected houseguests, and we’re making a great adventure of it.”

Kinchen and his wife, Denise, use a boat to get from their front door to the road. Sandbags have been keeping most of the flood waters out of their house.

Louisiana has suffered severe flooding before. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 killed 1,833 people and heavily damaged or destroyed 300,000 homes.

Many residents of New Orleans left their flooded homes behind and moved to other cities, including Baton Rouge. Eleven years later, many former New Orleans residents remain in Baton Rouge.

Obama: Confident Rebuilding Will Move Forward

“Sometimes when these kinds of things happen, it can seem a little bit too much to bear,” said President Barack Obama. Obama was in Baton Rouge Tuesday, noting that he had visited New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when he was a U.S. senator.

Obama said he is confident flooded communities in Baton Rouge and nearby communities will recover, just as many neighborhoods in New Orleans did after Hurricane Katrina.

“And the reason I can say that with confidence is because that's what Americans do in times like this,” Obama said. “I know how resilient the people of Louisiana are, and I know that you will rebuild again.”

By resilient, Obama means having the ability to overcome problems, no matter how tough.

Dustin Clouatre is a member of the self-named “Cajun Navy.” It is a group of residents who use Facebook to organize private boat owners to rescue people and move food and other aid where it is needed.

'Love Is All You Need'

He soon became popular on social media.

“Me and my uncle had just gotten a family out of a house and something got caught in the motor,” he said. It was a sign that said, “Love is All You Need.” The photo quickly spread on social media.

David Vitter is a Republican senator from Louisiana. He visited flooded communities with the president on Tuesday.

Senator David Vitter, left, watches as President Obama speaks in Baton Rouge.

Senator David Vitter, left, watches as President Obama speaks in Baton Rouge.

“There’s a spirit of helping folks and it really was in full display when the president visited the neighborhood,” Vitter said.

Vitter calls the rain that brought the floods a 1000-year event, meaning it has a one-in-1,000 chance of happening in any year. The Red Cross said it is the biggest natural disaster in the United States since Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

Despite this, Vitter and others said the Louisiana disaster has not received much news coverage outside the state.

Competition for News Coverage

“I think people are a little disaster weary, plus there are other competing stories,” Vitter said.

Both Vitter and Obama praised the willingness of people to help each other.

They spoke to a young African-American man, who was helping his father clean out his flooded home. The man was also helping his dad’s elderly white neighbor, who lives alone.

The work of removing flooded walls, floors and furniture is not easy.

Kevin White has been working on flood relief for the past week in Saint Amant, Louisiana. He said the smells at the water-damaged houses are terrible.

White is housing a family of four who were flooded out of their own home. He and the family spent the past few days tearing out walls and throwing out everything else damaged in his guests’ flooded house. The damaged things represent almost everything the family owned, he said.

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Marissa Melton reported this story for VOA. Bruce Alpert adapted the story for VOA Learning English.

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Words in this Story

sandbag -- n. bag filled with sand and used as a weight or to build temporary walls to protect homes and businesses

pitching in -- v. offering help

houseguests -- n. people who are invited to stay at a person’s house

confident -- n. having a feeling or belief that people can do something well or succeed at something

resilient -- adj. having the ability to overcome problems

display -- n. put out so people can see it

weary -- adv. tired, lacking interest because you have seen it often before

furniture -- n. chairs, tables, beds, etc., that are used to make a room ready for use

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