People dying in wait outside Kabul airport: Report

People gather near the north gate of the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 21, 2021, as members of the National Directorate of Security work to secure the perimeter. PHOTO: NYTIMES

KABUL (AFP) - The bodies of at least three people were seen in the sweltering crush outside Kabul airport, television news footage showed on Saturday (Aug 21), as thousands try desperately to flee Taleban rule in a chaotic evacuation.

The footage from Britain's Sky News showed soldiers covering three bodies in white tarpaulins. It was not clear how they died.

Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay, who was at the airport, said that people at the front of the crowd were being "crushed" and that medics were rushing from casualty to casualty. The footage also showed multiple wounded people.

Mr Ramsay said people were "dehydrated and terrified" and he filmed soldiers aiming a hose into the crowd, saying they were using "anything to cool them down".

Given the prevailing chaos, he said the deaths seemed "inevitable".

The airport has been the site of desperate scenes since the Taleban took control of Kabul on Aug 15, with tens of thousands of Afghans waiting in the heat for hours or even days in a bid to get on an evacuation flight.

Families hoping for a miracle escape have crowded between the barbed-wire boundaries of an unofficial no-man's-land separating Taleban fighters from United States troops and remnants of an Afghan special forces brigade helping them.

Roads leading to the airport have been choked with traffic, and there have been reports of the Taleban or other militants stopping and beating or harassing Afghans trying to flee.

The US, which has taken control of the airport, has repeatedly warned people to stay away unless they are on evacuation lists.

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On Saturday, it repeated that warning, citing "potential security threats" near the airport gates.

While the Taleban have long been responsible for attacks in Kabul, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is also present in the capital and has carried out devastating attacks.

US President Joe Biden has called the airlift "one of the largest, most difficult" in history.

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