Afghanistan: US military plane takes off from Kabul with hundreds of refugees inside a Reach 871, a US C-17 packed with 640 Afghans
A C-17A Globemaster III taxis at Dover AFB (U.S. Air Force)
A US air force plane touched down safely in Qatar yesterday after carrying more than five times its suggested load when hundreds of desperate Afghan refugees flooded the plane.
Reach 871, a C-17 Globemaster III massive military cargo plane used by the US and its allies for the past 30 years, flew from Kabul International Airport late on Sunday, local time.
According to US defence officials, and photos obtained by Defence One, the crew safely evacuated more than 640 Afghan people.
The full uncropped photo from the inside of Reach 871, a U.S. Air Force C-17 flown from Kabul to Qatar
Authorities believe the passenger load was likely one of the largest ever flown by a C-17.
The cargo plane had not been planning on carrying so many passengers however hundreds of Afghans, cleared to evacuate, managed to pull themselves up onto the aircraft’s half-open ramp.
A video posted on Sunday showed Afghans already in the plane pulling other people up as they all crowded around the aircraft.
Faced with either forcing the extra refugees off the aircraft or attempting to take off, “the crew made the decision to go”, an official told Defence One.
“Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,” another official said.
Initial reports suggested there were as many as 800 people on the plane, with audio revealing the flight crew also believed there to be up to 800 people.
Military Monitoring World on Twitter: “Reports that USAF C-17 RCH871 airborne out of #Kabul in #Afghanistan has 800 passengers on board! Incredible work being done by #USAF and allied aircrews just now which will without a doubt go down in the history books #AvGeek #RadioGeek #MilMonWorld #BravoZulu pic.twitter.com/8De9wLusWb / Twitter”
Reports that USAF C-17 RCH871 airborne out of #Kabul in #Afghanistan has 800 passengers on board! Incredible work being done by #USAF and allied aircrews just now which will without a doubt go down in the history books #AvGeek #RadioGeek #MilMonWorld #BravoZulu pic.twitter.com/8De9wLusWb
Horrific scenes at Kabul Airport
Thousands of people swarmed Kabul Airport as the Taliban surrounded the Afghan capital.
A US official said a number of cargo planes took off with hundreds of people on-board.
There were also horrific scenes at the airport as desperate refugees, unable to get inside the C-17 planes, instead clung to the wings and landing gear as the aircraft took off.
Footage from Kabul Airport showed at least two people falling to their death after the planes took off.
Shortly after the scenes from the runway emerged, footage showed Afghans clamouring onto the side of the C-17 and clinging on to its undercarriage as it struggled down the tarmac.
Aśvaka – آسواکا News Agency on Twitter: “Not a scene of Hollywood, it’s Just #Kabul air port, people want to run away, after the Capture of Kabul by the #Talibans #Afghanistan By: @Mukhtarwafayee pic.twitter.com/ZLYieJm9mX / Twitter”
Not a scene of Hollywood, it’s Just #Kabul air port, people want to run away, after the Capture of Kabul by the #Talibans #Afghanistan By: @Mukhtarwafayee pic.twitter.com/ZLYieJm9mX
Subsequent footage also showed people falling from the sky.
Online reports indicate at least 12 people were seen holding onto the landing gear as the plane took off. It appears most of those were young men.