Chhetri, a former Armyman who was evacuated from Afghanistan on August 17 on an Indian Air Force (IAF) plane, told on Friday that he is still traumatised by what he saw at the Kabul airport as he frantically scurried to leave the city that was his home for over a decade.
On August 16, after the Taliban’s capture of Afghanistan’s capital, Chhetri, who worked as a security officer there, had “packed up his life” in Kabul and like hundreds of others reached the airport.
“I was at the military airbase which is next to the airport when I heard gunshots. Bullets were flying all around. It was complete chaos. But that wasn’t the worst part,” said Chhetri, now in Dehradun with his family.
“What I will never forget is how people were running on the tarmac alongside the US cargo planes that were taking off, carrying hundreds of Afghans. One of the planes had left the ground but people were still clinging to its wheel. A little later, I saw two bodies drop down from the sky. It was horrific and I couldn’t take it any more,” said Chhetri.
The 60-year-old, who was accompanied by his sister-in-law, Savita Shahi, decided to turn back from the airport and take shelter in a NATO camp, a few metres away. Shahi, who worked as an assistant to a US medical team in Kabul, contacted the Indian embassy in Afghanistan and found that an IAF plane was scheduled to leave the city the next day with diplomats and embassy staff.
“On our request, the embassy officials agreed to adjust five of us on the flight home, but two more Indians joined us later and they were also accommodated in the rescue flight,” she said.
Their passage to India was secured but reaching Kabul airport while avoiding the Taliban was a challenge and risk. The group of seven left the camp at about 3.30am in the night. “We walked to the airport, praying that no one would stop us. The situation was slightly better that day as there were less people at the airport. Still, we were very tense until we saw the IAF flight touch down at Kabul around 6am,” said Shahi.