The arrival of the Taliban in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on August 15 has caused a mad rush to the airport as residents try to leave the country in the last available planes. Videos on social media show chaotic scenes on the tarmac as Afghans tried to get out of the city by any means necessary, some even clinging to a US military plane. At least five people died at the airport.
People climbing airplane ramps and running after planes on the runway: Desperate Afghans trying to leave the country in the face of the Taliban government filmed videos of the chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 15-16, 2021.
On the night of August 15, hours after the Taliban surrounded Kabul, a dense crowd had already descended on the airport, as seen in this video posted on Twitter:
Hamid Karzai International Airport. August 16, 2021. pic.twitter.com/LXsAQPpFXG
– BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 15, 2021 A video posted to Twitter on August 15, 2021 by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary shows at least 100 people descending onto the runway under the light of cell phone flashlights.
People continued to enter the airport until the next day. High-resolution satellite images released by Maxar show the spread of the crowd at the airport the next morning.
New high-resolution satellite images (10:36 am local time, August 16) of the ongoing chaotic scene at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan as thousands of people converge on runways and airports as countries try evacuate staff. from the city. pic.twitter.com/L6lhlVms54
– Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) August 16, 2021 ‘What I saw was a real disaster’
Masoud (not his real name) went to the airport with his family on the morning of August 16. He told the JowharObservers team about the general confusion and chaos at the airport.
What I saw was a real disaster. There were around 10,000 people on the runway, and perhaps as many as 10,000 closer to the airport behind a cordon of Taliban forces that are surrounding the airport.
I saw an American military plane circling in the air for about 30 minutes. He could not land because there were people on the runway. It is as if the airport runway is blocked by a human shield.
A video posted on Snapchat on August 16, 2021 shows Kabul residents climbing the perimeter wall at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The people who are there hope to get on a plane. There were some civil flights that would leave until Sunday night. Some people were able to get on those flights by force, maybe five people for each flight. Maybe there were 50 flights like this Sunday night. Thousands of people were still there Monday morning, hoping to do the same. I went there with my family hoping to catch a flight, but it was impossible.
Latest images of Kabul airport. People are alone now as the world silently watches. Just some sensible advice for Afghans … RUN pic.twitter.com/RQGw28jFYx
– Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) August 16, 2021 A video posted to Twitter on August 16, 2021 shows a crowd of people climbing the stairs of an airplane ramp to board a plane. ‘People are willing to risk their lives to get out of here’
Afghan aviation officials told people Monday not to come to the airport, but they continued to meet throughout the day. By noon, all commercial flights from Kabul were canceled.
In an act of desperation, people began to board the American C-17 military planes that were about to take off. A video shared widely on social media shows a crowd running alongside a plane, while some are sitting on the skirt of the plane’s undercarriage.
هرج و مرج در # کابل ؛ لحظهی پرواز هواپیمای نظامی آمریکاییها از میدان هوایی کابل.
– Mukhtar wafayee (@Mukhtarwafayee) August 16, 2021 A video posted to Twitter on August 16, 2021 shows a group of people clinging to the skirt of a plane’s landing gear as it moves for take off. A crowd of people run alongside the plane.
Another video, filmed from the runway just after a US C-17 jet took off, shows two people who had reportedly clung to the plane, falling hundreds of meters to the ground.
Due to the shocking nature of this video, we have chosen to only post screenshots.
These screenshots from a video widely shared on social media show two people falling from a US military C-17 plane that took off from Kabul airport on August 16, 2021. © Observers
Another video from a different angle shows two people apparently falling from the same C-17 as it exits the airport perimeter. It was impossible to verify if the two videos show the same people falling.
These screenshots from video widely shared on social media show two people falling from a US C-17 military plane that took off from Kabul airport on August 16, 2021. © Observers
A local news agency (CAUTION: graphic images) reported that residents saw three people fall and land on the roofs of houses, posting photos of a body found on a roof.
Using visual indicators in videos of the event posted online, the JowharObservers team was able to identify the direction the plane took off, as well as the location where the first victim was found. The body of one of the other victims fell on a roof in a neighborhood west of the airport.
In this satellite image of the area around the Kabul airport, the blue arrows show the direction in which the US military plane took off. The red triangle shows the location where the body of the first victim was found, and the area in red shows the approximate location where the body of another victim was found on a rooftop. © Observers
Masoud explained why people are trying to get out of Kabul by any means necessary:
People are willing to risk their lives to get out of here, as seen in the videos of people falling from the US military plane. People seize the slightest opportunity they see.
Just imagine the most precious part of your city, wherever you live, and then imagine that ISIS has occupied it. You too would go crazy, like those poor people.
The US military controls the airport
The videos show the US military trying to maintain order. A US military official said troops had fired warning shots into the air to prevent people trying to force their way onto a military flight from evacuating embassy personnel.
A Pentagon official told AFP that US soldiers had killed two men who were armed and brandishing their weapons.
Later Monday, the United States halted all evacuation flights, waiting to clear the people who had gathered at the airfield. A US military plane flew over the airport without landing on the runway, which was full of people.
Additional US forces have been deployed to the airport to provide security and maintain control.
The Afghan aviation authority warned airlines to avoid Afghan airspace on Monday night, saying the airspace had been “turned over to the military.”