An extraordinary image has emerged that appears to show hundreds of Afghans packed into a US military cargo plane, in a desperate attempt to flee Kabul after the fall of the capital to the Taliban.
The picture obtained by US defence and security news site Defense One is believed to show 640 people crammed into a C-17 Globemaster III, among the highest number of people ever carried in such an aircraft.
US defence officials reportedly said the passengers – among them women and children – on the flight were safely evacuated from Kabul to Qatar on Sunday.
The flight had not intended to take such a large load but some panicked Afghans pulled themselves on to the C-17’s half-open ramp, Defense One reported.
The flight was one of several that was able to take off with hundreds on board, and others may have carried even more passengers.
The desperation of many other Afghans was seen at Kabul airport on Monday, as people clung to the side of moving military planes and at least two apparently fell 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.
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.
Source: The Guardian