Civilians, Diplomats Seek Evacuation from Chaotic Kabul Airport

ISLAMABAD/KABUL - The Afghan capital's international airport was frenetic Monday with thousands of Afghans looking for a way out of Kabul.

U.S. soldiers were positioned to guard the runway, but civilians pushed past them. The soldiers fired warning shots as they sought to keep the area secure. Videos on social media showed scenes of crowds running on the airport tarmac and jostling for space on a staircase leading up to a plane as people tried to board. Videos also showed some people clinging to a plane as it was getting ready for takeoff.

At least seven people died in the chaos, according the Associated Press.

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on Aug. 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war.

Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Authority announced the civilian side of the airport was closed until further notice. Several airlines, including United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa, said they would avoid flying in Afghan airspace, while Emirate and Pakistan International Airlines announced they were halting flights to Kabul.

The airport is also the staging site for diplomats seeking flights out of Afghanistan after evacuating embassies in the capital as Western nations arranging the evacuation of their nationals and some local staff who worked for and aided them since the start of war 20 years ago.

Italy, Saudi Arabia, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia and the Czech Republic are among the nations that have flown out their personnel or announced plans Monday for those flights.

Source: Voice of America