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Thousands still in dark as US power outages remain days after hurricane

NEW ORLEANS -- Tens of thousands of customers remained in the dark Monday in Louisiana and Mississippi, nearly a week after Isaac inundated the Gulf Coast with a deluge that still has some low-lying areas under water.

Most of those were in Louisiana, where utilities reported more than 100,000 people without power. Thousands also were without power in Mississippi and Arkansas.

President Barack Obama visited southern Louisiana on Monday, a day ahead of the Democratic National Convention, and walked around storm damage in St. John the Baptist Parish, where subdivisions were soaked in water from Isaac.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited the state Friday.

“What I've pledged to these folks is we're going to make sure at the federal level we are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here and what can do to make sure it doesn't happen again and expedite some of the decisions that may need to be made,” Obama told reporters after touring the region, 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside of New Orleans.

Joined by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and members of Louisiana's congressional delegation, Obama walked through the Ridgewood neighborhood of brick homes and front yards that were a painful reminder of last week's hurricane. Orderly piles of water-logged debris — bedding, insulation, furniture and toys — filled the yards.

The president shook hands with residents in LaPlace, where several neighborhoods were inundated by water and some residents were rescued from rooftops by boats.

“How y'all doing?” he asked.

“Better now,” one man shouted back.

In the sticky heat, the president walked from house to house, asking residents about what happened and posing for photos. There was debris but no signs of lingering water.

“We're here to help,” the president said at another home.

Obama praised the coordination of federal, state and local officials and pointed out that his administration issued disaster declarations well in advance to ensure officials “weren't behind the eight ball.” In highlighting the work, Obama was drawing a contrast with President George W. Bush's widely criticized response to Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, residents spent the Labor Day holiday dragging waterlogged carpet and furniture to the curb and using bleach and water to clean and hopefully prevent mold.

LaPlace resident Barbara Melton swept mud and debris from her home, which was at one point under two 2 feet (60 centimeters) of water. The garbage, debris and standing water — combined with heat reaching the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius) — created a terrible stench.

“It's hot, it stinks, but I'm trying to get all this mud and stuff out of my house,” she said.

Melton was grateful for the president's visit.

“I think it's awesome to have a president that cares and wants to come out and see what he can do,” Melton, 60, said.

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U.S. President Barack Obama walks past debris on the sidewalks as he tours the Bridgewood neighborhood in LaPlace, Louisianna, in the Saint John the Baptist Parish, with local officials to survey the ongoing response and recovery efforts to Hurricane Isaac, Monday, Sept. 3. (AP)

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