White House Live Updates: What You Need to Know about Flooding in Louisiana

President Obama has ordered federal aid to help state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by flooding.

Watch: Secretary Johnson Gives a Press Conference on Flood Response in Louisiana

Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is visiting Baton Rouge to meet with state and local officials and review ongoing response and recovery efforts in areas affected by severe flooding. While in Baton Rouge, Secretary Johnson is participating in a press conference to discuss the relief and recovery efforts, including assistance by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


The state of Louisiana continues to deal with a significant level of flooding and one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. Yesterday, the President spoke with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who traveled to Louisiana yesterday, to receive an update on the response to ongoing flooding in the state. In the latest of a series of updates the President has been receiving since the weekend, Administrator Fugate briefed the President on the resources that have been provided to support the response and recovery, including FEMA Corps volunteers and federal assistance available to individuals who have been impacted.

The President directed Administrator Fugate to utilize all resources available to assist in the response and recovery and asked to be regularly briefed on the ongoing response. In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson visited the impacted region this week to review the ongoing response.

According to the National Weather Service, significant river flooding will persist this week across portions of southern Louisiana. Major to record flooding will continue along portions of the Amite, Vermilion, Mermentau, and Calcasieu Rivers. Additional rain is possible in slow-moving, persistent thunderstorms, with the greatest threat across south central Texas and western Louisiana. Pockets of flash flooding may develop as a result of this additional rainfall.

So here’s what you should know about the federal response in Lousiana and the resources that you or anyone you know who is impacted by flooding can use:

Federal Response

President Obama has declared 20 parishes for a major disaster for severe storms and flooding, a declaration that makes federal funding available to affected people in Acadia, Ascension, Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington and West Feliciana. Additional parishes may be added to the declaration at a later date as damage assessments continue in affected areas.

This federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Last week when flooding began, President Obama spoke with Governor Edwards of Louisiana last Thursday and ordered federal aid last week to support state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding — support that will continue as state and local officials in the affected areas address the impacts of the disaster. Since then, FEMA and Louisiana state officials have convened a Strategic Housing Task Force to explore immediate temporary housing solutions for displaced survivors. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will speed federal disaster assistance to Louisiana and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes due to severe storms and flooding

The Small Business Administration is also opening Business Recovery Center in Waka, LA to provide a wide-range of services. You can learn more about that center here.

Right now, FEMA, through its regional office in Denton, Texas, is highly engaged in response efforts in Louisiana as flooding continues across areas of the Gulf Coast. FEMA staff are on the ground in Louisiana as FEMA continues to coordinate closely with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. FEMA is also monitoring potential flooding in Texas and in states across the Gulf Coast. As of today, the Corporation for National and Community Service has assigned 310 AmeriCorps members serving through FEMA Corps to relief efforts, including 114 AmeriCorps members on the ground in Louisiana to support disaster assistance and other critical tasks and 196 members remotely staffing survivor call centers. In addition, 39 AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members serving through the American Red Cross have deployed to Baton Rouge to support sheltering, disaster assessments, and feeding.

Here’s what FEMA is doing on the ground in Louisiana:

  • More than 300 housing inspectors are on the ground in Louisiana verifying damages reported by survivors who have registered for assistance. The number of inspectors is expected to increase rapidly over the next several days.
  • FEMA established an Incident Support Base in Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana to distribute supplies such as water, meals, cots and blankets to the state of Louisiana. These include over 650,000 liters of water, over 800,000 meals, over 20,000 cots, and 42,000 blankets.
  • FEMA Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel and equipment are deployed to the Incident Support Base in Pineville to support the state with secure and non-secure voice, video and information services to support emergency response communications needs.
  • After the state requested a Federal Urban Search & Rescue task force, FEMA has deployed Texas Task Force 1 to Louisiana.
  • Six FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams are deployed to Louisiana to support response activities and ensure there are no unmet needs.

Louisiana residents impacted by flooding can directly apply for assistance online or by phone. Already, more than 80,000 people in Louisiana have registered for FEMA Individual Assistance, and more than $3.7 million has been approved to help survivors with temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs, and other serious disaster-related needs. More than 17,000 National Flood Insurance policyholders have submitted claims for flood loss.


how to file a claim with FEMAIf you are a resident or business owner who has sustained losses in the designated parishes, you can apply for assistance from FEMA by registering online atwww.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The numbers are toll-free, and will operate from 7am to 10pm (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

First and foremost, you should return home only when authorities indicate it is safe. 

If you can safely return to your home, and have filed an insurance claim or applied for FEMA assistance:

  • Be ready when an adjuster or housing inspector calls
  • Take pictures
  • Make a list
  • Remove water damaged items to prevent mold
  • Don’t have damaged items hauled away until adjuster or inspector sees or gives the ok

An important note: When cleaning up your home, assume everything touched by flood water is contaminated and will have to be disinfected. Residents who are able to start cleaning up should do so with care.

If you are a veteran and your home has been impacted by the floods, the VA has provided guidance on how to ensure you receive the assistance you need here.

Most importantly, don’t put yourself at risk. Follow the instructions of local officials — and if told to evacuate, do so immediately.

Apply Now


If you’re in impacted parishes, you can also download FEMA’s app to your smartphone so you can locate and get directions to open shelters across the state, and receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five difference locations anywhere in the United States.

Get The App


And finally, make sure you take note and share these important tips on how you can stay safe in the event of flooding near you.

  • Don’t put yourself at risk; follow the instructions of local officials – and if told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Get to know the terms that are used to identify floods and discuss with your family what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued.
    • A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding.
    • A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
    • A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding.
    • A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring.
    • A Flash Flood Emergency is issued when severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is imminent or ongoing.
  • If you encounter flood waters: turn around, don’t drown.
    • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles.
    • Do not walk through flood waters. A few inches of water can sweep you off your feet.
    • When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips.
    • As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

Learn more about what you can do to prepare for, respond to, and address the impacts of flooding in your neighborhood here: Ready.gov 

Be Prepared


Sean Griffin is the Director for Incident Management Integration Policy in the National Security Council. 



Next Cold War Roundup 8/17/16

Russian strategic bombers arrived at an Iranian air base this week and began flying airstrike missions in Syria from the base.

A Chinese envoy traveled to Damascus to discuss military and humanitarian aid for Syria.

Turkey will allow international observers to inspect cargo at border crossings.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic negotiations among various countries involving Syria and Ukraine. US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces are securing the strategic city of Manbij and will used it as a staging area for taking Raqqa. Syrian Kurds want to advance to the west, not to Raqqa.

Iraqi Kurds told the Iraqi prime minister they will keep the territory they liberate as he told them to stop advancing.

The Atlantic Council released a proposal for Polish cyberattacks on Russian public transportation, power and state-sponsored web sites and a prolonged DDoS attack on RT web site began shortly afterward.

Saudi bombing raids escalated on Yemen, a country in severe humanitarian crisis.

Ukraine, Donbass and Crimea

_ Joe Biden called Ukraine Pres. Poroshenko on Aug. 12 and urged him not to escalate tensions with Russia and noted that the White House  has urged “the Russian side” to do the same.

_ BBC reported that S-400 Triumph missile defense system was delivered to the Russian air force and air defense unit in Crimea.

_ No public support from Western governments toward Ukraine after their denials of attempted terror attacks on Crimea and counter accusations against Russia. “On the contrary Western governments have publicly said virtually nothing about the incident.” The UN Security Council held a closed door meeting about the incident on Aug. 12.

Aiding and Abetting Saudi Slaughter in Yemen

_ Patrick Cockburn has an article in Harper’s Magazine on “aiding and abetting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen,” one of the poorest countries in the world.

_ Before the Saudis started bombing it a year and a half ago 40,000 children were dying before age 5, and 1 in every 5 Yemenis going hungry. The Saudis have also blockaded food, fuel and medicine. The US is supplying bombs, the US Navy assisted with the blockade, the US military runs a joint operation center with the Saudis, helps with intelligence and logistics, refuels Saudi jets in air, and assists overall.

_ In 2009, the last time the Saudis launched an attack on the Houthis in Yemen, including an air campaign by their air force, it failed, and “the Saudis embarked on a massive weapons-buying spree,” a $60 billion deal, the “largest arms sale in U.S. history,” and a major score for the Obama administration. Total sales to Saudi Arabia over the course of Obama’s two terms is more than $111 billion.

Diplomacy, Negotiations and Summits

Steinmeier-Lavrov Summit

_ Before the meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a statement on Aug. 12 saying that aid must be allowed to reach both sides of Aleppo city and holds Russia more accountable for making sure this happens because they are a “supporter of the regime.”

_ At a press conference after Steinmeier-Lavrov Summit on Aug. 15, German FM Steinmeier said: “I would be very happy if Russia would accept our proposals on Syria.”

Russian Defense Minister: US and Russia Closer to Plan on Aleppo

_ On Aug. 15, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said (via Russian media) said of the plan for US-Russia joint military operations against militants in Aleppo: “We are now in a very active phase of negotiations with our American colleagues […] We are moving step by step closer to a plan – and I’m only talking about Aleppo here.”

_ Reuters reported that Shoigu said there were about 700,000 people still living in Aleppo and the civilians in the rebel-held eastern part of the city are “hostages of armed groups.” Other recent reports said there were more than 1 million people in government-held western Aleppo, and about 30,000 in eastern Aleppo

US State Dept on Aleppo

_ State Dept. spokeswoman, when asked about Shoigu’s comment on cooperation said she didn’t have anything on that, and when pushed said: “We remain in close contact with the Russians on the three components [cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, political transitions] that are the main focus of our work right now.” When pressed even further, the spokeswoman said the journalists should go and speak to the Russians.

China Training Syrian Forces

_ A Chinese military envoy, rear admiral Guan Youfei, went to Damascus this week and they agreed that China will provide humanitarian to Syria and the Chinese military may conduct training of Syrian personnel. Chinese state media said that China wants closer military ties with Syria.

Turkish-Russian Detente

_ Russian FM Lavrov said Turkey “would consider establishing international control at two border-crossing points at the Syrian border.” A former Turkish diplomat said Turkey is in a weak position and will have to agree to deploy “international observers and specialists” at the border to inspect humanitarian supplies which have included hidden supplies for militants in the past.  UN resolution 2165 calls for this.

Jordan Cannot Take Any More Refugees, Fears Extremist Elements

_ King Abdullah of Jordan announced publicly, in a media interview, that Jordan cannot absorb any more refugees. Back in February, Abdullah said Jordan was at a “boiling point” .

_ The NGO group Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report about Syrian refugee children not receiving education. There are 226,000 school-aged Syrians registered with the UN and living in Syria. Even with refugee camp school teachers doing double shifts, Jordan can’t educate all of them. HRW urged Jordan to “expand efforts to realise the fundamental right to education for all Syrian children.

_ King Abdullah said Jordan has 1.4 million refugees and international funding covers only 35% of the costs of hosting them. The rest is paid by Jordan and it’s now 25% of the country’s budget. “Jordan is doing its utmost to help refugees. […] However, we have reached our limits… This is an international crisis and an international responsibility, and the world has to do its part.”

_ Abdullah also fears for the security of the people of Jordan and refused to reopen the border with Syria where people are stranded. He fears there are “extremist elements” among the refugees and said that Jordan does its “utmost to help refugees but that will under no circumstances be at the expense of the livelihood of Jordanians and their security.” Aid agencies continue to pressure Jordan.

Cyberattacks on Russian Media After NATO/Atlantic Council Proposal

_ The Atlantic Council published a proposal after the NATO Warsaw Summit (dated July 19), written by Gen. Sir Richard Shirreff and Maciej Olex-Szczytowski, titled “Arming for Deterrence: How Poland and NATO Should Counter a Resurgent Russia.”

_ Shirreff is the former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commader (2011-2014), wrote a book published this year, titled: “War with Russia: An Urgent Warning from Senior Military Command.” Shirreff was involved in some controversy in May when the British Foreign Secretary called him out publicly on his warmongering.

_ Maciej Olex-Szczytowski was Special Economic Adviser to Poland’s Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski from 2011-12.

_ In the proposal are some specific actions that Poland should do:

“Poland should announce that it reserves the right to deploy offensive cyber operations (and not necessarily in response just to cyber attacks). The authorities could also suggest potential targets, which could include the Moscow metro, the St. Petersburg power network, and Russian state-run media outlets such as RT.” [Emphasis added]

_ On Aug. 14, Russian state media Sputnik reported that their other English language state media web site,RT, had been under DDoS attack during the past week, a “well-planned series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, one of the means of attack described in the NATO/Atlantic Council proposal.

Syrian Kurds Want to Advance West

_ Operation Inherent Resolve reports that US-backed forces are driving ISIS out of and securing Manbij which, as of Friday Aug. 12, is under the control of the US-backed Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) but fighting is still occurring. When asked about ISIS fighters and civilians escaping to the north (probably to Turkey) the Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesman said those escaping vehicles were not targeted because based on their systems and partners on the ground “every vehicle had civilians.” He would not specify where they went but said it wasn’t a compact convoy, destinations varied, and they are still tracking as part of an ongoing operation. He would not discuss whether the civilians were acting as human shields.  Journalists had a lot of questions about the ISIS and civilian convoy that left Manbij to the north.

_ Kurdish fighters want to advance west, not to Raqqa, to work on forming the Kurdish entity in northern Syria, called Rojava.

_ The co-leader of Rojava council, Mansour Alsaloum, said he doesn’t see the warring sides and their foreign backers in Syria working for a “lasting peace” and Turkey “deceived the international community and brought the assassins and radicals of the world into our country.”

_ Across the border in southeastern Turkey, the post-coup crackdown “has only worsened the situation” for Kurds who are fleeing the country. Some are applying for asylum in Germany, according to Ali Toprak, the chairperson of Germany’s KGD Kurdish advocacy group.  “If the situation doesn’t improve, if there’s civil war, there could be a massive exodus from Turkey to Europe.”

Russian Bombers Deployed to Iran

_ Russian strategic bombers were deployed to Iran, preparing for airstrikes in Syria. Al Masdar News published“exclusive photos” on Aug. 15 and this is part of a “newly signed military agreement with Iran” that will reduce flight time by 60% for bombing missions on Palmyra. Al Masdar said it also indicates an improvement in relations between Russia and Iran. US State Dept. and Dept. of Defense have been flooded with questions from journalists about the situation.

_ The Russian bombers began flying missions on Aug. 16, attacking positions in “Serakab, Al-Ghab, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor.” On Aug. 17, another wave of airstrikes was launched from the Hamedan base.

_ On Aug 16, US State Dept spokesman Mark Toner said it was “unfortunate” and it “only pushes us further away from what we’re all at least say we’re trying to pursue.” Toner said he thinks this may be just a “one-off” or a “stopover.”

_ Col. Garver, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Baghdad, said the Russians “did notify the coalition as per the Memorandum of Understanding for safety of flight […] They informed us they were coming through and we ensured safety of flight as those bombers passed through the area and toward their target and then when they passed out again.” He said they were given enough notice to ensure safety of flight and not interfere with OIR operations in Iraq and Syria. OIR gives clearance thru Iraqi airspace when they are notified by the Russian military.

_ On Aug. 17 a “prominent Iranian lawmaker” Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Russia is using the air base for airstrikes in Syria but only stop to refuel there with permission from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. The speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, said that Russia does not have a permanent base and their constitution bars foreign military bases.

_ The Hamedan air base is also called Noje Air base, or Shahid Nojeh Air Base, and is located in Hamadan province, in western Iran, between Tehran and Baghdad. ”

This is the first time Russian military forces have been on Iranian soil since the aftermath of the Second World War.” American officials and historians noted the historic nature of this move: “This didn’t even happen under the shah,” said John Limbert, referring to a time when American advisors in Iran wanted a bigger presence but were “rebuffed” due to Iran’s strong “sense of sovereignty.”

_ The Iranians staunchly want to keep Syrian president Assad in office while Russia, reportedly, was willing to bargain on that as long as their interests in Syria were protected. “’The Iranians have been all in on Assad, and I think the Russians have now moved in that direction,‘ said Cliff Kupchan, a specialist on Russia and Iran at the Eurasia Group.” In the same NYT article, John Limbert speculated that Russia paid a big price for air base access in Iran. Support for Assad might be the price they paid.


View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

AF Tu-22M3 strategic bombers deployed to airbase in being prepared for airstrikes in .

 Battle for Mosul

_ The Iraqi coalition forces are advancing on the strategic town of Al-Qayyarah, south of Mosul.  Theycaptured the Qayyara airfield (35 mi. south of Mosul) in July, and it will be the main staging area for the offensive to retake Mosul. ISIS fighters reportedly are continuing to flee to the north.

_ Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by US anti-ISIS coalition air strikes, reached Kanhash, east of Mosul. The Kahhash Heights are on on the western side of the Grand Zab river, which flows into the Tigris.

_ Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, who was in Iraq last week, issued a press release congratulating the Iraqi forces and Peshmerga who are “helping to shape the conditions for Mosul’s ultimate liberation and stabilization.” McGurk reported “recent increases in U.S. and coalition support, including support for stabilization in liberated areas to ensure battlefield gains are durable and lasting.” McGurk tweeted that the “noose is tightening” as Peshmerga advance from the east and ISF from the south.

_ Operation Inherent Resolve (anti-ISIS coalition) report airstrikes across Iraq and Syria.

Post-Liberation Mosul

_ Sabah Alnasseri, a Canadian professor from Iraq, in an interview with The Real News, says that the Iraqi parliament just passed another de-Baathification law, and discusses the party and faction battles over who is going to control Mosul after its liberation.  One of the big issues is “how to deal with the many Iraqi generals and officers, also from Mosul, who were laid off during the de-Baathification period.” Alnasseri says that “the majority of the Iraqi generals and officers come from Mosul [..] most of them were laid off by Bremer at that time, and when the Iraqi government accusing them of Baathist, although the absolute majority of them were not Baathist.”

_ They are unemployed, don’t have pensions, and some of them sided with ISIS and others did not. The Shiites and Kurds in parliament are saying “if we retake Mosul, what to do with all these 10,000 of generals and officers and bureaucrats” who want to be rehired or want to resume public office.

_ Brent McGurk mentioned that the future governance of Mosul should be decentralized. When asked about this, State Dept. spokeswoman said she would not go as far as to say there are plans for confederacy.

Iraqi Kurds vs. Iraqi Prime Minister

_ Iraqi prime minister Abadi: “The Peshmerga should stay where they are now, and they should not expand their presence even if they help the Iraqi Army […] No other force will enter the city of Mosul.” [except for Iraqi government forces]

_ Spokesman for Kurdistan Regional Government: “The Peshmerga will continue their advances and will not retreat from the areas they have recently liberated from the Islamic State in Mosul.”

 India Helps to Circumvent Sanctions — Military Equipment for Afghanistan

_ “Western sanctions against Russia is leading to a paucity of spares for Russian-made weaponry used by Afghan forces” and most of the money given to Afghanistan comes from countries who are sanctioning Russia. Gen. John Nicholson asked India to give more military aid to Afghanistan. India sent Afghanistan four Russian MI-25 attack helicopters and an Indian defense analyst said the sanctions pulled “the plug on supply of military spares” so presumably there is some arrangement for spares as well.  US has to undermine its own sanctions to keep Afghan forces equipment running. Sanctions have been in effect since early 2014 so  it’s likely that this is not the first time some arrangement was made to get around the sanctions for spare parts.

War and Elections

_ On the stump in Scranton, PA, Hillary Clinton promised that she would not increase “American ground troops” in Syria.  Meanwhile, all of her surrogates are promising escalation and regime change, even if it means direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, and triggers a much larger war.  As Kelley Beaucar Vlahos in The American Conservative, says: “everyone in her orbit is calling for expanded U.S. intervention—including personnel and firepower—in the region, even at the risk of confrontation with Russia. […] Her advisors saySyria will take top priority in her first days in office, and, in addition to ISIS, President Bashar Assad must go.”

_ Vlahos points out three key places to look/listen if you want to know what Clinton’s real war agenda is: 1) Michele Flournoy, Clinton’s national security advisor and likely defense secretary and the policies/proposals from the CNAS think tank she runs which was “founded in anticipation of Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid”; 2) Clinton’s foreign policy surrogates; 3) Neocons who are backing Clinton.

_ Flournoy recently rolled out a plan, “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand U.S. Engagement in a Competitive World Order,” which calls for many different kinds of boots on the ground in Syria and “no bomb zones,” (yet another permutation on the term “no-fly zones” which former JCS Dempsey made clear is war and which were flatly rejected by the American public.) The CNAS plan calls for war with the Syrian government forces, and direct conflict with Russia if necessary.

_ Vlahos quotes Gareth Porter saying that the CNAS plan is dangerous and reckless and Clinton’s other surrogates’ comments are even worse, making the CNAS plan look relatively tame. Vlahos cites Jeremy Bash, Michael Morell, Leon Panetta, Robert Kagan. Porter says it is perhaps unprecedented for a presidential candidate to have detailed plans for a new war.

_ Also in The American Conservative, Daniel Larison follows up the Vlahos article with: “A Clinton Win Means An Expanded War in Syria.” Hillary Clinton has decided to mislead voters who are less informed, and even the voters who are pretty well informed but don’t read white papers, or know the foreign policy language. She uses words in her campaign speeches that make it sound like she’s not going to radical escalation, while making it very clear to the War Party that she will. Larison says Clinton is so confident that she will win the election that she “doesn’t think she has to make any concession to her critics on the left.”

Radio, Podcasts, Video, Films

_ Weekly radio interview (Aug. 16 podcast) – Stephen Cohen on the John Batchelor Show.

Analysis and Opinion

_ Jeffrey Tayler, a contributing editor to the Atlantic Magazine, says: “When it comes to the dangers of unchecked NATO expansion, Trump was right,” in an article titled “The Time is Ripe for Détente, 2.0.” Two days later, The Atlantic published an angry rebuttal letter from Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokesperson.

Little boy in Aleppo a vivid reminder of war’s horror

Go to CNN’s Impact Your World for ways to help Syrians caught up in the civil war

(CNN)His name is Omran Daqneesh. The image of him, bloodied and covered with dust, sitting silently in an ambulance awaiting help, is another stark reminder of the toll of the war in Syria.

He is young — one witness puts him at five years old, as old as the Syrian war itself. But his chubby arms and legs and the way he clings to the man who pulled him from the rubble of his bombed-out home suggest he is younger, maybe still a toddler.
He lived with his mother, father, brother and sister in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a contact on the ground tells CNN.
He and his family were injured when their house was destroyed by an airstrike Wednesday. Miraculously, everyone in his immediate family survived. Activists blame the Syrian regime and Russia for the bombings.
Aleppo, in northern Syria, has been besieged for years during that country’s civil war. Thousands of people have been killed there, including 4,500 children, and many lives have been upended.
Omran’s family is among them.

One boy’s story

The haunting, heartbreaking video of Omran, posted by the Aleppo Media Center, has been circulating on social media.
It shows a civil defense worker carrying the little boy to an ambulance. His cartoon character T-shirt is covered in dust, the left side of his face is bloody. He is silent despite the cacophony around him.
He was not crying at any point during the rescue.
“He was in extreme shock,” according to a spokesman for the Aleppo Media Center, an activist group.
He looks dazed as he sits on the vehicle’s orange seat, his hands on his lap, as he waits to be treated, as he waits for somebody to help him.
He raises his left hand to his eye and feels the area around his temple as if he has been hit there. He wipes his face and looks down at the blood.
But Omran has had a lucky escape — he appears to have been one of the first pulled out of the rubble before his parents, the Aleppo Media Center says.

Omran’s story repeated every day

“The truth is that the image you see today is repeated every day in Aleppo,” said Mustafa al Sarouq, a cameraman with the Aleppo Media Center, who filmed the video. He spoke to CNN’s Nima Elbagir via Skype.
“Every day we cover these massacres and these war crimes in Aleppo. When we go to the places that have been bombed, regime planes circle around and bomb it again to kill rescue workers that are helping civilians. They kill these people who are trying to rescue people.”
It took nearly an hour to dig Omran out from underneath the rubble, an activist tells CNN. He and other rescuers used flashlights to bring out several people trapped beneath the bombed-out building. Video from the night scene shows another little boy, even younger than Omran, being placed on a stretcher on the same ambulance. A third shell-shocked man stumbles out of the collapsed building and walks into the ambulance.
Omran has now been released from the hospital.
The doctor who treated him said his injury was light compared to the others wounded in the bombing. He was discharged after two hours.
“Omran was in the same daze and shock you saw he had when he was in the ambulance,” said Dr. Mohammedd, a surgeon in Aleppo, who doesn’t want to use his last name for security reasons. “He was in the same situation, he did not cry at all.”
His mother and brother, who were seriously injured, were smuggled out of Aleppo, and the family is now staying with relatives, the activist tells CNN.

“World is silent”

On Wednesday, three more people died and at least 12 others were wounded in the rebel-held al Qaterchi neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media Center. One of those killed is believed to be a relative of Omran’s family.
More than 18,000 civilians have been killed in Aleppo province from March 15, 2011 through August 18, 2016, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
More than 4,500 of those killed were children under the age of 18, the Observatory said Thursday, after the video of Omran went viral.
“The whole world is silent to these crimes in Aleppo against women and children,” said Sarouq.
“There are thousands of children like Omran who are being bombed daily, killed daily… Everyday this city is hit with every type of weapon, with every type of crime. The living conditions are terrible. The only route out of the city is totally unusable, it is shut. We call on the whole world this regime and these militias that are killing children and specifically the children of Aleppo. These crimes must be stopped in Aleppo.”

A terrible choice

Some 1.5 to 2 million people still remain in Aleppo, once considered Syria’s largest city. It is now divided into rebel-held and government-held areas. Those still there face a terrible choice.
Should they stay in a city subjected to relentless bombing and risk their lives and those of their children?
Or embark on a perilous journey across the sea, and endanger the lives of their families?
Last year another image of a Syrian boy, just 2 years old, blew up social media.
The photo of Alan Kurdi’s body lying on a Turkish beach galvanized the world and became a symbol of the migrant crisis in Europe.
A Sudanese artist based in Doha, Qatar, captured the two stories that symbolize the suffering of millions into one heart-wrenching image.
“The picture describes two scenes from different time periods, but the same war and struggle of Syrian people and refugees of war all over the world,” Khalid Albaih told CNN.
“Omran who was pulled from under the ruins after a Russian air strike in Aleppo and also of Alan who drowned in the Mediterranean.”
Asked what inspired him to draw the pictures, Albaih said: “My inspiration came from the fact that I consider myself a refugee. My children are within the same age and could also be in the same (situation).”

UN calls for halt in Aleppo violence

Hope is far from reach for Omran and thousands of others like him.
The United Nations has been forced to halt nearly all aid deliveries in Syria, faced with the escalating fighting.
“In Syria, what we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counter-offensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hellfire cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, airstrikes, suicide bombers,” said UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas. Not one single convoy. And why? Because one thing, fighting.”
He abruptly cut short a meeting of the UN humanitarian task force in protest of the violence.
Mistura has attemped to increase pressure on the US and Russia, the task force’s co-chairs, to help produce a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo.
On Thursday, Russia said it is ready to support that call from the UN Special Envoy to halt the violence in Aleppo to allow for the distribution of humanitarian aid.
“Coming from the international principles of humanitarian law and with intention to extend the scales of humanitarian mission in Aleppo, Russian Defense ministry is ready to support de Mistura’s proposal about weekly 48 hour humanitarian ceasefires to deliver the city’s citizens food, medicine and to restore vital service systems that got broken in rebels’ shellfire,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian media.
He said the dates and times of the humanitarian convoys will be set after Russia receives security guarantees from the United States.
Syria and Russia announced in late July the opening of humanitarian corridors for people to flee Aleppo, but many residents stayed in the city, fearing the corridors were not safe. De Mistura said introducing such measures should be left to the UN and its partners, and said that no one should be forced to leave.

Suffering in Syria

Using survivors’ accounts, the Amnesty report details the harrowing conditions for inmates and the brutal methods of torture including rape, sexual violence, flogging, burning and scalding.
UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, estimates 8.4 million children are in need of humanitarian aid in Syria and neighboring countries.

“World has failed the Syrian People”

The UN’s deputy secretary-general said he hoped Omran’s story and image would get to people’s hearts and brains.
“I think the whole world has failed the Syrian people,” said Jan Eliasson, speaking on CNN’s “Amanpour.” Thursday.
“I think this is an illustration of the huge tragedy that the Syrian people are going through. We talk about this often as this being a nightmare. This is worse than a nightmare because you wake up from a nightmare. But in Syria they wake up to constant nightmares.”
He called Syria one of the most frustrating conflicts in the world.
“This is like an infected wound in world politics,” Eliasson said. “We’ve got to end this war.”

Heartbreaking Flooding Crisis in Louisiana Far From Over

Louisiana Flooding Disaster Grows, Millions in Texas Under Flood Watch 1:23

The forecast for Louisiana is for more rain — and more pain.

With the state still swamped by historic flooding that has killed at least 13 people and displaced tens of thousands more, the National Weather Service warned Thursday that heavy rains could produce floods and flash flooding in parts of the state.

Image: Louisiana flooding
Danny and Alys Messenger canoe away from their flooded home Tuesday in Prairieville, La. Max Becherer / AP

“The good news is it’s not widespread, more hit and miss,” said meteorologist Roger Erickson of the NWS station in Lake Charles. “The problem is there is nowhere for the water to run off. In the last couple of days, we’ve had to reissue flash flood warnings in areas that had been showing improvement.”

The result is dashed hopes for the legions of residents who fled their flooded homes for higher ground this week and were hoping to return to their homes and lives.

“It turns your heart upside down,” Erickson said. “You think it’s over, and then it starts raining again.”

Erickson said they’re “hoping for a drying period this weekend.”

“We still have rivers rising, though,” he said. “It’s going to take one to three weeks to get all this water out into the Gulf of Mexico.”

Most of Louisiana has gotten at least a foot of rain since Friday, with some places getting as much as 30 inches, according to the NWS. And the resulting arithmetic from some of the worst flooding to hit the state has been awful — 13 dead, 8,400 people in shelters, 40,000 homes damaged, 30,000 people rescued.

In places in and around Baton Rouge where the water has started to recede, thescale of the devastation is starting to be seen.

President Barack Obama, who signed a major disaster declaration Sunday, got an update Wednesday on the flooding and the relief efforts from Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who is on the ground in Louisiana.

Image: Louisiana flooding
A man navigates a boat of rescued goats past a partly submerged car Tuesday in Gonzales, La. Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images

The White House said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is heading to the hard-hit state Thursday.

“Already, more than 70,000 people have registered for individual assistance under the federal disaster declaration, and over 9,000 have filed flood insurance claims,” said Jen Friedman, a spokeswoman for the White House.

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross dispatched an army of volunteers to Louisiana to deal with what the relief group is calling “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy.”

The 1,000 recruits are from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, said Brad Kieserman, who helps run the Red Cross’ logistics and disaster services operations.

“The Red Cross is mounting a massive relief operation, which we anticipate will cost at least $30 million, and that number may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation,” Kieserman said.

Twenty parishes were included in the federal disaster zone, and more than a dozen continue to be subject to overnight curfews. At least 14 people have been arrested on suspicion of looting over the last two days in East Baton Rouge Parish, and nine more were arrested in nearby Livingston Parish, according to theBaton Rouge Advocate.

Couple Nearly Swept Away in Louisiana Flood 1:43

Tens of thousands of homes were badly damaged across the state.

The water was 6 feet high in the home that Moosie Benoit has lived in for 38 years in the Acadia Parish town of Midland.

“I stayed through hurricanes. I stayed through other things,” Benoit told NBC station KLAF of Lafayette on Wednesday. “This has got to be the worse.”

Jade Boudreaux, Benoit’s granddaughter, should be readying for her senior year in high school. Instead, Jade and her family are spending the foreseeable future helping Benoit, other relatives and neighbors bail themselves out.

“I feel bad for my grandma,” Jade said. “I mean, she’s been here for a long time, and it’s never gotten this bad.”It’s devastating,” she said, covering her face to hide her tears.

It’s not just people who’ve been ripped from their homes. So many displaced pets and other animals have ended up at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzalez, south of Baton Rouge, that the state Agriculture Department sent a strike team to help out.

IMAGE: Displaced pets
Snowball, a displaced Chihuahua, rests in a mobile pet shelter set up by the Louisiana Agriculture Department in Baton Rouge. Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry

The agency said a count Wednesday showed that the event center is currently home to 450 dogs, 109 cats, 333 horses, 139 cattle, 44 pigs, 123 goats and 27 exotic animals, which it didn’t describe.

The department is working to reunite pets with their owners, even if they can only be “co-located” in the same shelter.

“It’s so important to co-locate displaced people with their family pets,” said Mike Strain, who, besides being the state agriculture commissioner, is also a veterinarian.

“People are more inclined to evacuate if they know their pets can come with them,” Strain told NBC station KPLC of Lake Charles. “This is also a lifesaving measure. We have learned from past experience that people will remain in harm’s way before leaving without their pets.”

The flooding didn’t even spare the dead. Dozens of graves in the historic French Settlement Community Cemetery were damaged by the torrents, the Livingston Parish sheriff reported.

Image: Livingston Parish unearthed graves
Graves began unearthing in floods Livingston Parish. Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office

Among the latest reported dead was Bill Borne, 58, whose body was found Tuesday in a wooded area near Mallard Lakes, about 16 miles east of Baton Rouge, county Coroner William “Beau” Clark confirmed. The cause of death was listed as accidental drowning.

Borne was the founder of the national home nursing company Amedisys, the company confirmed.

“Bill Borne was a star-spangled, American hero, filled with energy, commitment, passion, initiative, courage and fun,” Amedisys board Chairman Donald Washburn said in a statement.

Louisiana floods are devastating ,climate change will bring more and We’re not ready!

Tracy Thornton walks to his house through a flooded neighborhood August 15, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, meteorologists began sounding the alarm that a low-pressure weather system would deliver about 24 inches of water to communities on the Louisiana coast. Had it been a hurricane, more advance warning would have been possible to give people more time to evacuate. But this storm was harder to predict — and so it took the region largely by surprise.

The extensive flooding that ensued has left 11 dead and 40,000 homes damaged across 20 parishes in the state. Tens of thousands of people were stranded as the water rose, requiring the National Guard, Coast Guard, local first responders, and groups of citizens including the Cajun Navy” to do water rescues over the weekend. More than 10,000 people were moved to shelters.

Though smaller than the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, this latest flood reminds us of what a changing climate has in store for us: Places that have flooded before will flood again, and places that haven’t in the past will do so for the first time.

These disasters are the new normal — several other states are currently recovering from disasters of their own. What has become painfully clear is that the “emergency management system” in the United States does not have the capacity to address all the needs. The systems we have in place to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from these events do not have the ability to deal with so many disasters at once. We can do better.

The strain on the US emergency management system

In the past year, a number of flood events have ravaged communities all over the United States: South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Louisiana, Texas again, and now Louisiana again.

The size of these disasters ranged from impacting a few towns to multiple counties — from hundreds of homes damaged to hundreds of thousands. Recovery operations are ongoing in Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and others. In addition, Texas and Oklahoma continue to recover from tornadoes, and California and other parts of the West have ongoing wildfires.

We have significant experience and knowhow to respond to these events. In the 1950s the United States began to establish what we know as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Along with FEMA there are state-, county-, and city-level emergency management agencies.

Other federal agencies and local governments oversee the rebuilding of roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals, along with other community-level infrastructure. Corporations like Walmart and Home Depot, as well as local businesses, restock so the community can buy what they need to recover. Utility companies bring workers in from out of state to get electricity and cell towers back up and running. Nonprofits ranging from nationwide disaster-specific organizations, such as Rebuilding Together, to small, local nonprofits with no disaster mission deploy resources toward the community recovery process.

The culmination of these groups and their programs is what makes up the “emergency management system.” It is no small task to coordinate everyone involved, especially when they are competing for resources (personnel, volunteers, funds), limited media attention, and community buy-in.  Moreover, local communities often find they do not have recovery plans in place, nor do they have the experience to manage recovery.

Unfortunately, these constraints mean the emergency management system does not have the capacity (in terms of resources, knowledge, and coordination) to address all the needs that communities face after a disaster. In the best of circumstances recovery is challenging, but in a year with so many disasters it starts to become unmanageable. Given what climate change is bringing, it is difficult to imagine how this system will ever be able to handle more.

Man in a boat going down a flooded street in Louisiana.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Richard Schafer navigates a boat past a flooded home on August 15, 2016, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The case of Louisiana

We are about to see the consequences of this lack of capacity unfold in Louisiana.

As the flooding continued throughout the weekend, government agencies, disaster nonprofits, and individuals from all across the country moved into the impacted areas. Local community organizations have been working nonstop to meet the vast and growing needs of the community. Individuals have organized their own search, and rescue missions and donations are pouring in from New Orleans and beyond.

It’s worth waiting for action reports to be written before making characterizations of the “successes” or “failures” associated with the response. Tensions have been running high online as individuals search for missing family members, seek information on which neighborhoods are flooded, and monitor ongoing evacuation notices.

It is no easy task to coordinate all of the groups involved in such a large-scale response. Regardless, the response is just a fraction of what the emergency management system does. It is the recovery, which is already underway, that will last for years and highlight many of the inadequacies of the system.

Why recovering from disaster can be as bad as the disaster itself

Though response is a trying experience, it is the recovery that is especially arduous and requires the dedication of resources and personnel to be sustained over a long period of time. Survivors often call recovery “the second disaster” because of how difficult it is.

Many people in Louisiana are returning home to find their belongings ruined by floodwater. Little will be salvageable, especially when exposed to the humidity. Mold will grow quickly.

Most people do not have the resources to pay out of pocket for their own recovery. A recent survey found that 63 percent of Americans cannot afford a $500 emergency. They will turn to friends and family for assistance, or for a place to stay while they make repairs.

The generosity of friends and family, though helpful, will likely be insufficient. In the affected communities, entire families live on the same street and likely have all been impacted. Many will not have the resources to help each other to a full recovery.

Few people have flood insurance (regular homeowners insurance does not cover flooding). Yet even for those who do, as an episode of PBS’s Frontline recently explained, receiving payouts for flood insurance is not an easily or quickly navigated process.


FEMA will provide some assistance in many of the affected parishes. Here, too, individuals will be forced through a complex process that many homeowners have described as a full-time job. At most, residents will receive around $30,000 – barely, enough to fully rebuild and cover the expenses incurred in the meantime (for example, the cost of evacuation and taking time off work).

At this point, many homeowners turn to recovery nonprofits. The United States has many national recovery nonprofits such as St. Bernard Project, All Hands, and Rebuilding Together. Many rebuilding groups, like St. Bernard Project, got their start after Katrina. Those that are still working on recovery in New Orleans (11 years later this month) will likely direct aid toward Baton Rouge and surrounding communities. The combination of efforts from these groups will play out over the next several years, largely in the form of donations and volunteers.

We need to avoid a perpetual state of response and recovery

Because so many communities are still recovering from past disasters, the entire system is taxed, and disaster recovery groups, in particular, need help. Many have been talking of donor and volunteer fatigue throughout the summer.

During and immediately after disasters there is an influx of donations and volunteers to help with tasks such as running shelters, delivering aid, conducting search and rescue efforts, and cleaning out houses. That help is valuable, but so are the volunteers that come months and years later. In fact, they are especially needed after the immediate response is over and national news coverage stops. These volunteers bring a renewed hope and motivation to the people living and working in communities experiencing recovery.

For most disasters, especially smaller ones, the system has been functional. The realization that the system is also easily taxed when a series of smaller disasters occur is cause for serious concern.


What those changes are have not been fully thought of or agreed upon, nor is it clear how such changes would ever be implemented.

At this rate, communities across the country will be in a perpetual state of response and recovery.  We need to find way to lessen the impact of these types of disasters and better prepare. Local governments need to lead the conversation on community-wide mitigation projects like flood control systems and zoning laws. Individuals and households need to buy hazard insurance. Communities must create disaster plans in advance and tell the local community about their hazard risks and what to do about them.

We need to find ways to fund and maintain public interest for mitigation and preparedness to be successful. This all needs to happen while simultaneously creating a system that allows communities to recover quickly and fully.

Samantha Montano is a doctoral student in emergency management at the Center for Emergency Management Education & Research at North Dakota State University. She blogs at Disasterology. If you would like to donate to the recovery, she recommendsFoundation Beyond Belief and Team Rubicon.