KABUL (NEXSTAR) – A new photo shows hundreds of desperate Afghans crammed aboard a U.S. C-17 cargo plane as it left Kabul’s airport on Sunday.
A Defense department official told Defense One that the Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely evacuated about 640 Afghans from Kabul on the flight. The number of passengers is among the most ever flown aboard the aircraft.
The C-17 Globemaster III can normally carry 134 passengers, including 54 on side seats and 80 on pallets on the floor, Reuters reports.
The plane was not intending to take on such a large load, but panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the C-17’s half-open ramp, a defense official told Defense One.
Instead of trying to force those refugees off the aircraft, the crew made the decision to take off, the official said.
“Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,” the defense official told Defense One.
The official also said the flight was one of many to take off from Kabul with hundreds aboard, and others may have carried even more than 640 people.
This is not the first time a C-17 has flown over 600 people at a time. In 2013 , a C-17 evacuated 670 people fleeing a typhoon in the Philippines:
Defense One reports the plane is part of the 436th Air Wing, which is based at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.