Virginia naval hospital set to evacuate amid search for stabbing suspect

(CNN) -- Authorities prepared to evacuate a major U.S. Navy hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, on Friday afternoon, hours after sounding an alert that they were searching for an enlisted man suspected of stabbing a fellow service member.

There was no word Friday afternoon that security forces had the suspect -- identified by Navy spokesman Jim Moir as Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell -- in custody or that they knew where he might be.

WIth the manhunt still on, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth did signal around 3 p.m. on its Facebook page what its next step will be, stating: "We are hoping to begin evacuating soon, patients followed by staff. The evacuation will be done in an orderly manner as directed."

There was no immediate indication as to where these patients might go.

Hours earlier, the hospital and its accompanying base were placed on lockdown as authorities looked for the 26-year-old Harwell.

According to Moir, the stabbing took place Friday morning in front of the private military store, or exchange, at the base, which is called Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Portsmouth Annex.

No details were provided of the condition of the stabbed service member.

People with business or appointments on the base were being urged to stay away, Moir said. That includes, around noontime, the cancellation of appointments at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

Despite reports on social media of a shooting at the base, Moir said there was no indication gunshots had been fired or a shooter was on the base.

About 4,300 military and civilian personnel work at the medical center, which is across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk.

It is the oldest continuously operated hospital in the Navy, according to its website. It serves about 420,000 military members, families and retirees in the Hampton Roads region, home to one of the largest concentrations of military power in the world.


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