Loved ones are mourning the death of a 9-month-old Afghan baby who died after landing in Philadelphia.
Investigators said the baby girl suffered a medical emergency on a Philadelphia-bound flight that was carrying Afghan evacuees. When the flight landed at Philadelphia International Airport at 9:16 p.m. Wednesday, the girl was unresponsive.
Medics took the baby from the airport to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she was pronounced dead at 10:10 p.m.
Officials have not yet determined a cause of death and both police and the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating.
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Thousands of Afghan people have fled their homeland in fear of the Taliban regime. The United States military left the country late Monday, ending a 20-year war that was the longest in American history.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the refugees are given medical assistance and food from U.S. Customs at the airport. They then have some time to rest before taking buses to a military base in New Jersey. Eventually, Kenney said, they will settle at different locations in the United States, including potentially the Philadelphia region.
Kenney described the welcoming operation at the airport as "pretty smooth," and said the arriving Afghan people are very patient and follow all the rules.
"These folks seem phenomenally strong, calm and patient," the mayor said at a press conference Tuesday. "It's wonderful to see how resilient they are."
During the first wave of arrivals on Saturday, workers with the Red Cross, as well as U.S. service members, could be seen unloading crates of bottled water from a semi-truck and wheeling them into the airport.
Kenney said any cost to the city will be reimbursed by the federal government, though he indicated there had not yet been any city funds spent on the operation. At the same time, however, Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management said it would maintain a presence at the airport through Sept. 17.
“This is a federal-led operation, and we are collaborating with the federal government in this emergency response, protecting the rights and dignity of the Afghan families arriving in the country,” a spokeswoman for Kenney said over the weekend. “We stand ready to provide medical assistance, housing, and connection to our diverse community of immigrant service providers who can assist with an array of social services.”
Philly International is the second airport in the nation to receive arrivals from Afghanistan as part of the operation. Dulles International Airport in Virginia was the first.
The arrivals came in the days after dozens of Afghans and at least 13 U.S. troops were killed during a bombing in Afghanistan last Thursday in the midst of the American withdrawal.
Officials said a suicide bomber attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover.
Among the refugees are people who helped the U.S. government during the war in Afghanistan. They fear reprisal from a resurgent Taliban, as well as the loss of rights gained under the former U.S.-backed government.