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Up to 10,000 Afghan evacuees headed to Fort Pickett

Fort Pickett.png
Posted at 5:20 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 23:21:43-04

FORT PICKETT, Va. -- Afghan families who are fleeing violence and fear in their home country are making their way to Central Virginia after the takeover by the Taliban.

U.S. officials are trying to evacuate both Americans and allies prior to the August 31 deadline. The deadline was confirmed by a top official in the Biden administration on Tuesday.

Biden made the decision after consulting with his national security team.

Military leaders and officials in Blackstone in Nottoway County are now preparing for what could be thousands of refugees arriving at Fort Pickett. Governor Northam confirmed the arrival of the refugees on Tuesday afternoon.

Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn said initial reports show as few as 500 but up to 10,000 refugees will be on the way as early as Wednesday. Crews are getting ready for their arrival by putting up a tent city for the soldiers who will take care of them in addition to a medical unit.

The mayor said that the families will be sheltered at the installation temporarily but that he's not sure for how long this will be at this time.

"I just asked everybody to be calm and to be receptive if we have a chance to interact with these folks because everything I've heard is these are folks who put their lives on the line to help us," Coleburn said.

Coleburn said that there will be little interaction with the greater community, especially at first, although many people have volunteered to help the refugees. He added that the fort will be able to accommodate thousands of refugees if need be.

"My answer is yes, for this reason. Uncle Sam's in charge. Uncle Sam does things right now. Regardless of what one feels about the mission or how the mission was executed, we do not criticize our service members. And in my opinion, we do not criticize those persons who found themselves in harm's way," Coleburn said.

Gov. Northam was also asked about safety protocols for the refugees.

"They're being tested for COVID, they're being offered vaccinations and then they're being moved to either Fort Lee or Fort Pickett where plans are made for further disposition, whether they go to other states," Northam.

Northam said that refugees will also be housed at Fort Lee in Prince George County which has already sheltered allies and families who fled Afghanistan.

About ten percent of refugees will stay in Virginia and the remaining percentage will eventually head to other parts of the country.

Editor's note: Billy Coleburn is the father of CBS6 reporter Caroline Coleburn

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