The mad rush of terrified Afghan nationals was actually due to their desperate bid to flee the Taliban
Despite having the capacity of carrying only 150 people, a US cargo jet packed with no fewer than 640 Afghans aboard managed to fly out of Kabul on Sunday amid the Taliban gains in the capital.
This means the aircraft— US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III—accommodated what is clearly more than four times its capacity.
A photo obtained by military news site Defense One shows the jet filled with the 640 Afghans, sitting on the floor of the plane that is fitted to carry 150 soldiers comfortably, but can take 171,000lbs of cargo, reports the Daily Mail.
The photo has already gone viral. The Afghans were flown to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar
The mad rush of terrified Afghan nationals was actually due to their desperate bid to flee the Taliban.
And that is believed to be among the most people ever flown in the C-17, a massive military cargo plane that has been operated by the US and its allies for nearly three decades, according to Defense One.
The C-17 was not intending to take on such a large load, but panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the C-17’s half-open ramp.
The refugees - including many women and young children - ran onto the plane's half-open ramp before take-off and 'the crew made the decision to go', taking them with them, an official said.
The flight was one of several that was able to take off with hundreds of people aboard, and some of the others may have had an even larger load than 640, a US defence told Defenses One.
In 2013, a C-17 evacuated 670 people fleeing a typhoon in the Philippines.
Another plane (RCH 885) flew out of Kabul with desperate Afghan nationals clinging on to the fuselage on Monday. Three fell to their deaths.
Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said the situation at the airport was not a 'failure' despite thousands of Afghans flooding the airfield and US troops shooting dead two armed Afghan nationals.
'When you look at the images out of Kabul... that would have been difficult for anyone to predict,' he said.
Afghanistan is now firmly under Taliban control. The government forces collapsed without the support of the US military, which invaded in 2001 after the September 11 attacks and toppled the Taliban for its support of Al Qaeda.
In the latest development, military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan restarted early on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.
The number of civilians at the airport had thinned out, a Western security official at the facility told Reuters, a day after chaotic scenes in which US police fired gunshots to disperse crowds and people clung to a US military transport plane as it taxied for take-off.
Flights were suspended flights for much of Monday, when at least five people were reportedly killed in the airport, the only remaining exit point from Afghanistan.