PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Refugees from Afghanistan have begun arriving in the United States.
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Between 3 a.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Saturday morning, the White House said approximately 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul. 4,000 of those evacuees were on U.S. military flights while the remaining 2,800 were rescued on coalition flights.
Among the 4,000 evacuees brought to the United States, some came through Philadelphia International Airport through a federal relief operation called Operation Allies Refuge PHL.
The exact number of refugees arriving in Philadelphia is still unknown, according to one Philadelphia counterterrorism officer who wished to remain anonymous. "It's very fluid," he said. "They're switching up — it's kind of on the fly right now, so we're trying to just roll with the punches.
He described terrified families arriving with all of their worldly belongings in trash bags, or in their arms.
"All I know is that they come in, they're getting care packages, welcome packages to go," he said. "Giving the children toys and they're getting fed and heading off to lodging."
Philadelphia International Airport is the second airport in the nation to welcome refugees from Afghanistan, after Dulles Airport in the Washington, D.C. area. At least some of the refugees were taken on tour buses to New Jersey's Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
National guard members, the American Red Cross Cross, the Philadelphia Fire Department and various medical personnel were at the airport to assist. The Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps sought volunteers who could help translate Dari, Pashto, Urdu or Farsi for refugees. Those who can translate are urged to contact the city.
Mayor Jim Kenney made it clear he's willing to help the refugees evacuating from Afghanistan to connect them to social services and will welcome them with open arms, should they choose to stay here. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has already pledged state resources to help Afghan refugees "in any way possible," along with Haitian refugees following the devastating earthquake there.
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