The flight is believed to have carried among the most passengers ever on a military cargo plane

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Afghanistan evacuation flight
Credit: Courtesy

As the Taliban overtook Afghanistan's capital this weekend, a dramatic scene played out inside a U.S. military aircraft seemingly filled beyond capacity with people seeking to flee.

In what has quickly become one of the most striking photos to emerge from the fall of the country, 640 people were aboard an Air Force C-17 as it left Kabul on Sunday night.

Defense One reports that while the plane wasn't built to hold so many passengers, people boarded via a half-open ramp before the aircraft took off for Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

The people had been cleared for evacuation, according to Defense One. The flight is believed to have carried among the most passengers ever on a military cargo plane.

An official told Defense One that "the crew made the decision to go," even after the large group of Afghans who had been cleared began pulling themselves through the ramp.

The Defense Department confirmed to PEOPLE that there were 640 people on board. According to the Air Force, the plane is designed to hold 102 troops/paratroops, 36 litter and 54 ambulatory patients and attendants and 170,900 lbs. of cargo.

According to Defense One, it likely wasn't the only flight to take off with a larger-than-expected number of passengers. The outlet reports that one official said the plane was among several that took off from Kabul with hundreds of people on board, some of which may have included more than the 640 passengers seen in the widely distributed photo.

Those who left Kabul in one of the cargo jets sat on the floor of the plane's hold and held onto cargo straps during the flight, Defense One reports.

Audio of the crew aboard the flight also began to circulate on social media late Sunday. In the tape, one crew member estimates there are "800 people" on the jet, to which another member of the military replies: "Holy f---, holy cow … okay."

As the U.S. completed its previously planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed control of the government on Sunday after entering Kabul in a startling sweep across the country.

The speed of the insurgency caught the Biden administration off-guard and touched off a scramble to ensure American citizens and U.S. allies could be safely evacuated from Kabul.

Chaos and disarray also unfolded at the capital's airport, as panicked people attempted to jump on board aircraft evacuating diplomats and personnel from the region.

Kabul airport
Credit: Bashir Darwish/UPI/Shutterstock

According to the Associated Press, officials said that at least seven people died in the maelstrom. Among those were some people who fell from the outside of a U.S. military plane after clinging to it as it took off.

Video from the airport seemed to show several bodies fall from the plane as it rose into the sky.

In pubic remarks delivered Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden acknowledged criticism about how the withdrawal unfolded and addressed the scenes out of Afghanistan, calling them "gut-wrenching."

But he said he hadn't changed his mind about leaving the country after decades of what he called fruitless war.

"I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden, 78, said. "After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces."