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Nearly 650 Afghan refugees crammed onto a cargo jet designed to carry just 150 people amid ongoing efforts to flee the country.
An image of the scene was shared by the US Defense Department and showed approximately 640 passengers huddled together inside the C-17 Globemaster II cargo jet; a US Air Force plane being used for transport.
Though the number of people on board the plane far outweighed its designated load of passengers, a defence official explained the crew made the decision to take off.
Speaking to military news site Defense One, which obtained the image, the official said: ‘Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination.’
The plane carried Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate from Kabul, where residents are trying to escape the Taliban after its militants seized control of the country.
Footage taken as passengers attempted to board the cargo jet has also been shared on social media, with one clip capturing a conversation taking place over air traffic radio in which an official discusses the flight with someone on the plane.
They can be heard commenting: ‘OK, how many people do you think are on your jet? … 800 people on your jet? … Holy f*ck, holy cow…’
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras shared footage of the scene on Twitter along with the caption: ‘This footage from Kabul airport — Afghans desperately trying to board a C-17 airlifter from the Gulf.’
US armed forces took control of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to shut down commercial flights and focus on the evacuation efforts, which also affects government personnel and US allies.
In the rush to leave the country, at least seven people have been killed, including two armed men shot by US troops.
The militants‘ return to control marks the end to almost 20 years of a US-led coalition’s presence in the country. As many as 9,000 US troops have been redeployed to the country to assist in the evacuation process, and on Monday, August 16, a German evacuation plane also landed at Kabul airport, according to sources cited by Reuters.
Foreign diplomats from multiple nations have also been moved into the airport, with other countries joining the US in its efforts to remove staff and allies from the country.
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