Thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport to escape the Taliban capture of their country by running along and holding on to the American military jet as it took off, killing at least seven, U.S. officials reported on Monday.
Videos circulating on social media showed hundreds of people running across the tarmac as U.S. troops fired warning shots in the air. One showed a crowd pushing and shoving its way up a staircase, trying to board a plane, with some people hanging off the railings.
Senior military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing operation, told media that the airport chaos left seven dead, including several who fell from the flight.
In another video, hundreds of people could be seen running alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moved down a runway. Some clung to the side of the jet just before takeoff. Another video showed several falling through the air as the airplane rapidly gained altitude over the city.
The storming of the airport, seen from space by passing satellites, raised questions about how much longer aircraft would be able to safely take off and land.
Shafi Arifi, who had a ticket to travel to Uzbekistan on Sunday, was unable to board his plane because it was packed with people who had raced across the tarmac and climbed aboard, with no police or airport staff in sight.
“There was no room for us to stand,” said the 24-year-old. “Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.”
The “civilian side” of the airport was closed until further notice, according to Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority.
However, the U.S. military and other Western forces continued to organize their evacuations.
Western countries including US have closed their missions and are flying out staff and nationals.
The crowds of people rushing the airport came as the Taliban enforced their rule over the wider capital after a lightning advance across the country that took just over a week to dethrone the country’s Western-backed government. While there were no major reports of abuses, many stayed home and remained fearful as the insurgents’ advance saw prisons emptied and armories looted.