Seven Afghan civilians have died among chaotic scenes at the international airport in Kabul on Saturday, the British military confirmed.
It comes amid reports suggesting that at least 20 people have died in the past week in and near the airport.
It’s unclear if the seven who died on Saturday were killed by a stampede, heat, or other causes.
“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul,” the UK’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Sunday.
“Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”
On Saturday, British and Western troops in full combat gear tried to control crowds big enough to be seen in satellite photos pressing into Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Troops were seen attempting to rescue those in front of the crowd who were crushed against the barriers. They also carried away some who were sweating and pale.
With temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), the soldiers sprayed water from a hose on those gathered or gave them bottled water to pour over their heads.
The Taliban reportedly fired shots in the air and beat people with batons to keep the crowd in control.
Lt. Col. Justin Baker from the UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade said he believes this is “something that nobody has really experienced before.”
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the overcrowding of the airport had impeded the process of evacuation.
In an article published in the Mail on Sunday, Wallace said there’s “no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out” of Afghanistan if U.S. President Joe Biden’s end-of-month deadline remains.
Wallace said that the United States would have Britain’s “complete support” if its military can remain in Afghanistan for longer, and that the UK is also trying to find ways to keep a presence in Afghanistan after the military is gone.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had spoken with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other U.S. officials about extending the deadline.
The number of British troops and civilian personnel processing evacuees in Kabul has increased from less than 300 to over 1,000 since the fall of Kabul into Taliban control, and the United States currently has around 6,000 soldiers in Kabul.
The Netherlands’ Defense Ministry also said on Sunday that it would increase its military presence in Afghanistan.
PA and The Associated Press contributed to this report.