Two days of chaos and fear: How the scramble to flee Kabul unfolded
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 16/08/2021
Kabul airport is the focus of efforts to safely evacuate diplomats and other nationals working for the coalition.
The urgency of the situation became apparent when US staff were airlifted from the embassy to the airport on Sunday morning in CH-47 helicopters.
By early that evening, the US State Department issued a security alert that the airport was coming under fire. Shortly afterwards it was announced that all commercial flights to or from the airport would cease and at around midnight US officials said they would be taking over air traffic control.
UK and US troops secured the northern side of the airport, designated for the military aircraft used to evacuate foreign nationals. But amidst this activity, civilians began to gather on the south side of the airport, used for commercial flights.
At dawn on Monday, more crowds began rushing towards the airport terminal in a bid to flee the country, as roads around the airport became choked with people.
The situation became more frantic when some people climbed a jetty connected to the main terminal and tried to enter a plane.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News shortly after these incidents that the military side of the airport remained secure with military flights coming in and out.
Yet reports suggest US troops had to fire shots to keep the crowd at bay and several people are believed to have died in the mayhem.
And any further pretence that the situation was under control was gone when crowds began to gather on the runway.
US Apache helicopters attempted to fly low and disperse the crowd at around 9:30 am, but people were still able to leap onto the side of a US C-17 transport that was leaving.
Images captured after the plane took off suggest three people clinging to the side of the aircraft fell after it was airborne.
And shortly after a Turkish airlines plane was the last known commercial aircraft to leave Kabul airport, thought to be repatriating Turkish citizens.
By Monday morning more than 120 US aircraft and 38 from other countries, including 11 from the UK, had been used to evacuate people from Kabul airport, according to data from flight tracking service Flight Radar.
UK diplomatic staff are stationed in the airport and continue to coordinate the evacuation efforts.
© Sky News 2020