Afghanistan: US evacuation flight had record 823 passengers

Afghanistan: US evacuation flight had record 823 passengers
The estimate of 640 Afghans seated on the floor of the C-17 Globemaster III was already more than double the normal capacity.
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The U.S military plane carried more than double its capacity [Getty]

The US military transport aircraft shown in a now-iconic photograph jam-packed with Afghans fleeing the country's Taliban takeover held a record 823 passengers, the Pentagon said Friday.

The US military's Air Mobility Command said the original estimate of 640 Afghans, seated on the hard floor of the giant C-17 Globemaster III -- already more than double the normal capacity -- omitted children passengers.

The count was made based on the number of seats filled on the buses delivering the passengers to the C-17 and left out all the children seated on laps, it said on Twitter.

Ultimately, the aircraft, which was headed to Qatar, "safely transported 823 Afghan citizens from Hamid Karzai International Airport Aug. 15, 2021. This is a record for this aircraft," it said.

The command did not say how many crews were on the flight.

According to the publication Defense One, the pressure of Afghans trying to leave on Sunday forced the crew to make the call on departing, even though the passengers were not manifested.

"We have women and children and people's lives at stake, it's not about capacity or rules and regulations -- it's about the training and the directives that we were able to handle to make sure we could safely and effectively get that many people out," Lieutenant Colonel Eric Kut, who was mission commander for the flight, told the journal.

The transports are usually used for heavy equipment or a few hundred troops carrying large packs of their own weapons and belongings.