As the Taliban seized Afghanistan’s capital this weekend, a dramatic scene unfolded inside a U.S. military plane apparently filled beyond capacity with more than 600 people seeking to flee.
More than 600 people embarked on Air Force plane to flee Afghanistan
In what has quickly become one of the most shocking photos to emerge from the country’s fall, 640 people were aboard an Air Force C-17 as it left Kabul Sunday night.
Defense One reports that while the plane was not built to hold that many passengers, the people boarded through a half-open ramp before the plane took off for Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
The flight is believed to have carried the largest number of passengers on a military cargo plane, according to Defense One.
An official told the media outlet that “the crew made the decision to leave,” even after the large group of Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate began to walk across the ramp.
The Defense Department confirmed there were 640 people on board. According to the Air Force, the aircraft is designed to hold 102 soldiers/paratroopers, 36 stretchers and 54 ambulatory patients and attendants and 170,900 pounds of cargo.
— Marcus Weisgerber (@MarcusReports) August 16, 2021
According to Defense One, it probably wasn’t the only flight that took off with a higher-than-expected number of passengers. The news outlet reports that an official said the plane was among several that took off from Kabul with hundreds of people on board, some of whom may have included more than the 640 passengers seen in the widely distributed photo.
Those who departed Kabul on one of the cargo planes sat on the floor of the plane’s hold and held on to cargo straps during the flight, Defense One reports.