A photograph showing Afghan civilians – some holding luggage, others bottle-feeding – aboard the C-17 cargo plane on Sunday went viral on social media.
A US official told Reuters that around 640 people climbed on the flight from Kabul, when thousands of people, desperate to flee the country, rushed to the airport in the Afghan capital.
“The unusually high number of passengers is the result of a dynamic security environment that required rapid decision-making by the crew, which ultimately enabled these passengers to be quickly whisked out of the country,” said the manager.
According to the manufacturer Boeing, the C-17 Globemaster III can carry 134 passengers, including 54 on outboard seats and 80 on pallets on the ground.
Many Afghans boarded the plane via a half-open ramp before the flight left for Qatar with one of the largest numbers of passengers ever carried on such a plane, the news site reported. American Defense and Security Defense One. Reuters could not immediately verify these details.
Other heartbreaking videos and photos have emerged from Kabul airport, where witnesses say several people have died, and show people climbing overhead walkways and clinging to the undercarriages of taxiing planes in attempts. desperate to run away.
For some observers, the image inside the C-17 aircraft was seen as a sign of hope and bravery on the part of the evacuation crew.
“For all of this week’s failures, there is unmitigated good,” said Blake Herzinger, a Singapore-based security analyst, who shared the image on Twitter.
But for others, it was reminiscent of the calamitous evacuation efforts from Afghanistan after the United States withdrew its forces after 20 years of war and the Taliban seized power in days rather than predicted months. by the American intelligence services.
“We need a lot more planes like this,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch.