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More than 600 people packed into an Air Force cargo plane as it departed Afghanistan Sunday

Kabul C-17
Posted at 9:45 AM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 12:25:33-04

With thousands of Americans, Afghans and third-party foreign nationals seeking to leave Afghanistan following a takeover by the Taliban, hundreds of people packed into an Air Force C-17 cargo plane late Sunday evening.

Air Force officials told Defense One (a news outlet that focuses on U.S. defense and national security) and Reuters that 640 people packed into the Air Force C-17 Globemaster III plane as it took off from Kabul Sunday evening.

Defense One reports that it was likely among the most people ever flown in a C-17.

According to Reuters, the plane did not intend to take so many passengers during the flight. However, many Afghans climbed aboard through a half-open cargo ramp.

Afghanistan cargo plane
Afghan citizens pack inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, as they are transported from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. The Taliban on Sunday swept into Kabul, the Afghan capital, after capturing most of Afghanistan. (Capt. Chris Herbert/U.S. Air Force via AP)

Defense One reports that Air Force officials decided to depart rather than force many of the passengers to disembark the plane. When the aircraft arrived at its destination in Qatar, officials counted that 640 passengers were aboard the plane.

According to Reuters, Boeing, the plane's manufacturer, says that the C-17 Globemaster III safely seats 134 passengers.

The plane reportedly belongs to the 436th Air Wing, which is based at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to Defense One.

C-17s are among the largest aircraft in the world. The military often uses them to transport heavy equipment, vehicles and massive pallets of supplies across the globe.

Evacuations at the Kabul airport have been chaotic since the Taliban's weekend takeover.

Flights were suspended from the airport on Monday after hundreds of people rushed to the airport in an attempt to flee the country from Taliban rule. The stunning footage showed crowds of people abandoning their cars on local highways, jumping fences and running right onto the tarmac.

An additional video showed people running beside a U.S. Air Force plane as it prepared to take off. Some clung to the aircraft's fuselage as it lifted into the air.

The Associated Press reported Monday that seven people died in the chaos at the airport.

Pentagon officials said Tuesday that the military had regained control of the airport and resumed evacuation flights.