An extraordinary image has emerged showing about 640 Afghans packed into a US military cargo plane designed to carry only 150 passengers, in a desperate attempt to flee Kabul after the fall of the capital to the Taliban.
The photo obtained by US defence and security news site Defense One shows 640 people crammed into a C-17 Globemaster III
While the figure earlier reported was 800 passengers as per the initial audio message from the crew. But a US defense official reportedly confirmed that the actually figure was around 640 when the flight landed at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
The refugees ran onto the plane’s half-open ramp before take-off and “the crew made the decision to go”, taking the refugees with them, a spokesperson for US Central Command said.
As reported by a US defence website, the pilots of the plane did not intend to carry such a large load of passengers but decided to go ahead after seeing panicked Afghans cleared for evacuation crowd around the airplane.
LTC Karen Roxberry, a Centcom spokesperson, said: “The unusually high number of passengers aboard this aircraft that evening was the result of a dynamic security environment that necessitated quick decision-making by the crew, which ultimately ensured that these passengers were safely taken outside the country.”
The desperation of many other Afghans was seen at Kabul airport on Monday as people clung to the side of moving military planes and and people apparently falling to their deaths from the undercarriage soon after takeoff.
Video footage showed hundreds of people running alongside a military carrier as it travelled along the runway.
Watch video below:
The airport, secured by the US military was the only feasible route out after the Islamist group took control of the country’s land borders.
But US forces had to shut down the airport on Monday in an effort to contain the chaos and crowds. The airport reopened in the early hours of Tuesday, a US general said, adding that US personnel were now in charge of air traffic control.