The wife of a former Royal Marine commando who was evacuated out of Afghanistan last night on an almost empty plane has finally arrived home and revealed the dramatic details of her escape.
Kaisa Markhus, 30, touched down in her native Norway this morning and breathed a huge sigh of relief as she met her mother and father in Oslo.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline,she told of the chaotic scenes at Kabul Airport where a distressed mother tried to get her to take a baby with her and of the ‘lonely sadness’ of the rescue transport with only a handful of people on board.
‘There are thousands trying to get into the airport and once through the gates we found a large group of people, both Afghan and Americans, trying to get on board military aircraft. T
‘There were crying children, who had become separated from their parents and at least three babies who must have been handed over to soldiers by their desperate mothers,’ said Kaisa.
‘Once on the plane, we waited on the tarmac for hours for people to get through. But eventually we had to take off. I just had a feeling of sadness because the flight was so empty’.
In her four-day battle to land back in Europe, Kaisa, the partner of British ex-soldier Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, was nearly crushed to death in a stampede outside Kabul Airport, was placed in a safe house.
She told today how she got to Kabul Airport early yesterday morning to find thousands of locals besieging a barbed wire perimeter fence trying to force their way inside and on to some of the military planes evacuating Westerners.
Reunited: Kaisa Markhus, 30, touched down in her native Norway this morning, pictured, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as she met her mother and father in Oslo.
No way through: Westerners and Afghans with visas have to negotiate their way through this crowd (pictured today) if they want to make it to the airport. Kaisa said that the human tide outside the airport is only getting worse
Women and children were trampled underfoot in Kabul today in just the latest piece of footage to come from the airport as western nations are chased out of Afghanistan by the Taliban
Kaisa’s Norwegian evacuation flight was almost empty. She said: ‘Once on the plane, we waited on the tarmac for hours for people to get through. But eventually we had to take off. I just had a feeling of sadness because the flight was so empty’.
She and a pregnant American friend, who manages the Nowzad animal sanctuary set up by her partner Pen, had to physically push their way through a sea of men, women and children to get to an access gate.
Once there, they had to get the attention of U.S soldiers manning the checkpoint, who had to examine their paperwork before letting them through.
During the hour-long wait to process their forms they had to remain in the crush outside the gate, frantically trying to avoid being sucked back into the crowd and out of sight of the soldiers.
Eventually they were waved through. Kaisa walked her American friend to the U.S processing centre before heading to the Norwegian office.
After her passport and paperwork was checked again, she boarded a virtually empty military plane, which remained on the tarmac for several hours waiting for fellow Norwegian ex-pats to board.
However, only a few stragglers managed to get through the chaos and confusion outside Kabul Airport and the plane had to take off with only a handful of passengers.
The military plane arrived at Georgia in the early hours of the morning and she caught a connecting commercial flight on to Oslo.
Speaking to MailOnline Kaisa said: ‘I’m very pleased and relieved to be home finally.
‘There are thousands of desperate and terrified people in Afghanistan who fear for their lives at the hands of the Taliban rulers and its these people who are crowding around Kabul Airport looking for any way out.
‘There are four gates to the airport and each one is surrounded by masses of people.
‘The problem is that unless you have valid paperwork and the proper forms to get through the gate, the soldiers won’t let you through.
‘That needs to be made clear to people because at the moment whole families are sleeping rough outside the perimeter fencing hoping to somehow get through.
‘And for those who do have seats booked on flights out of Afghanistan, nobody can get through the human tide outside Kabul Airport. It’s not getting any better, only worse as people get more desperate.
‘We need to somehow make it clear to the people that there is no point crowding outside the airport if you don’t have the right papers. They won’t get in and will only put their lives at risk in a dangerous crush.’
The journey home started for Kaisa on Tuesday when she and her friend attempted to get to the airport but were thwarted by large crowds gathered outside who had been encouraged by the fact that some locals had earlier managed to breach security and force their way onto military aircraft.
To keep the masses back, U.S soldiers fired a volley of warning shots over people’s heads, which sparked panic and confusion.
Kaisa and her friend were nearly trampled to death in the ensuing stampede and were left wandering the streets dazed and confused.
Luckily they were picked up by friends and whisked to separate safe houses in Kabul, where she was able to reassure Pen, 52, that she was in no danger.
Although Taliban fighters patrolled outside in trucks armed with AK47’s, the few encounters she had with them were positive.
Recalling her first dramatic attempt earlier In the week, she said: ‘It was not a nice experience at all.
‘There were a lot of scared people who just want a way out. One woman tried to hand me her baby and said “please, please take my child” but I couldn’t, no matter how much I wanted to help. It just doesn’t work like that.
‘She must have been desperate to do that.
A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul
A smiling boy moves between US troops as he makes his way through a security checkpoint within Kabul airport on Wednesday
Taliban fighters have now encircled the airport in Kabul and are deciding who gets to come in and who has to stay out. Checkpoints have been set up on both the civilian south side of the airport and the military north side, with gunshots fired in both locations to keep crowds back
Satellite images have revealed the extent of the crisis at Kabul airport, with cars crammed up against the southern civilian entrance and northern military entrance that can be seen from satellites
‘It was impossible to reach the gate as there were so many stronger men in front of us but when the shots rang out from the soldiers, people began running in all directions and we had to concentrate on not being thrown to the floor under the weight of the crowd.
‘I was more worried about my friend because she is pregnant but we somehow got clear but were then on our own in Kabul.
‘We were taken to two separate locations across the city and waited there for 48-hours before trying again.’
The Taliban have issued a country-wide curfew of between 10pm and 4am so Kaisa began her second, this time successful, attempt just after it had ended yesterday.
She continued: ‘We were told that first thing in the morning is usually quieter and not as many people gather outside the airport gates but when we got there, there was a familiar crush of people.
‘We got to the gate, having had to push ourselves to the front. You have to be able to make eye contact with the American soldiers guarding it and be able to hand over the proper documents to them
‘But as you are waiting, you have to somehow keep at the front of the crowd and stop people from pushing in front of you. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd and if they can’t see you, the soldiers can’t wave you in.
‘It was a huge relief to finally get into the airport. I walked my friend over to where the U.S processing centre was and it was pandemonium.
‘There was a large group of people, both Afghan and Americans, trying to get on board military aircraft. There were crying children, who had become separated from their parent and at least three babies who must have been handed over to soldiers by their desperate mothers.
‘The Norwegian processing centre was much quieter but we had to wait several hours on the tarmac waiting for people to come through, but of course they couldn’t because of the crowds outside the airport.
‘The Norwegian soldiers have been managing a hospital in Kabul but have been drafted into the airport to help get ex-pats home safely. They looked after me well.
‘But in the end I was one of only a few passengers to take off on that flight to Georgia. The plane was virtually empty.
‘It was a sad of reminder that our governments need to perhaps sit down with the Taliban and work out a way, somehow, of stopping the thousands of people massing outside the airport.’
Kaisa’s partner Pen, originally from Essex, has vowed to stay behind at the Kabul sanctuary until all of his 25 members of staff and their immediate family members – some 71 people in total – have been given that safe passage out of Afghanistan.
He served with the Royal Marines in Helmand Province in 2006 and later set up the Nowzad sanctuary for stray animals after falling in love with a stray dog during his tour.
The charity, which is backed by Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench, is Afghanistan’s first official animal sanctuary and looks after more than 140 dogs, 60 cats, 24 donkeys and some horses.