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Relief Organizations Flock To Southern Louisiana To Help Flood Victims

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Obama will go to Louisiana on Tuesday. It will be his first trip to see communities that have been devastated by historic rainstorms and flooding. In areas south of Baton Rouge, waters continue to rise. But in and around the capital, neighborhoods are drying out. Relief organizations are on the ground trying to help flood victims. In a moment, we'll hear from the state's insurance commissioner about why so few people have flood insurance. But first, here's Louisiana Public Broadcasting's Paul Boger. He's in Baton Rouge.

PAUL BOGER, BYLINE: In a residential neighborhood in East Baton Rouge, a bright red American Red Cross emergency response vehicle pulls up to the curb. A loudspeaker on top announces it's here to hand out supplies.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOUDSPEAKER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Unintelligible).

BOGER: Rod Hamer is the truck's driver.

ROD HAMER: One of the major things we're doing today is we're just getting started. And we're trying to identify the bad pockets, so that we can establish routes and so forth so that we can go ahead and provide meals and other kinds of supplies.

BOGER: Hamer's wearing a bright red vest and a ball cap. The retiree drove down from Iowa to volunteer.

HAMER: When there is such a situation as they've lost so much, something as simple as a bottle of water or...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Anybody else need something?

HAMER: ...Somebody that comes from Iowa to help them out kind of helps a little bit.

BOGER: The Red Cross has brought in about 1,000 volunteers from around the country. Large charities like United Way, The Salvation Army and local organizations, like Together Baton Rouge, are also trying to aid. These groups are distributing supplies, running shelters and going door to door lending a hand in the cleanup.

Azayla Miles is here salvaging what's left of her house when the American Red Cross truck drove up. On the exterior of her house, a water line at about 4 feet shows just how high the water rose. She's piling wet carpet, couches, chairs, clothes and even appliances on the curb. Her car, which was completely submerged, sits in the driveway. Miles has been living with an aunt about 45 minutes away, along with her young son.

AZAYLA MILES: And he's been wanting to come home. He doesn't have a home to come to.

BOGER: Her friend helps explain.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Breathe. But she's going - 'cause he just had a birthday. He just turned 3. And all he knows is that he lost all his toys. That's all he can ask for. But pretty much their one-story - everything was gone. Like, everything that's for Hunter is gone.

BOGER: Red Cross volunteer Rod Hamer gives Miles a case of water, four or five military MREs and some hygiene products. She says these items have been a blessing.

MILES: It's more than what we have now.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's more than what we have. Just, like, yesterday we were cleaning our homes, and a guy just stopped and gave us Raising Cane's.

MILES: And it...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And that was touching because...

MILES: You know, but we're appreciate everything that everyone's doing for us.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yeah.

BOGER: What you need right now?

MILES: Prayers...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And a home.

MILES: Yeah, and a home.

BOGER: Miles says she's applied for federal disaster assistance, but doesn't know if she'll be able to wait for the money. She's considering packing up the few belongings she has left and leaving the state for higher ground, perhaps in Jackson, Miss., or Memphis, Tenn. For NPR News, I'm Paul Boger in Baton Rouge.[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this introduction to this report, we say Paul Boger is with Louisiana Public Broadcasting. In fact, he's with Mississippi Public Broadcasting.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: August 29, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
We incorrectly say Paul Boger is with Louisiana Public Broadcasting. He is actually with Mississippi Public Broadcasting.