US troops fired shots into the air and all commercial flights were cancelled at Kabul airport Monday as thousands of Afghans crowded onto the tarmac in the hope of catching any flight out after the weekend Taliban takeover.
Dramatic footage posted on social media showed a scene of chaos on the runway, with civilians frantically clambering up an already overcrowded and buckling set of airstairs.
It was a desperate bid to board a parked passenger plane and escape the city a day after the government’s collapse.
As a crowd of hundreds watched on, those who successfully climbed the stairs helped others up, while some hung from the stair railings by their hands.
Panicked families trying to flee the capital carried overpacked luggage, with frightened children in tow.
The situation caused such a commotion that US troops fired into the air to restore order and all commercial flights were cancelled.
“I feel very scared here. They are firing lots of shots into the air,” the witness said, asking not to be named in case it jeopardised his chances of leaving.
The US State Department said American troops had secured the perimeter of the airport as they evacuate embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for Washington’s interests since they toppled the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks.