'What a big mistake we made there': Alberta man recounts harrowing escape from Afghanistan
A Red Deer man who returned to visit family in his native Afghanistan this summer says the decision will haunt him for the rest of his life.
The man, who CTV News has agreed not to name in order to protect relatives in his homeland now under the Taliban regime, has lived in Canada for more than 30 years and served as an interpreter for the Canadian Military in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago.
He flew to Kabul earlier this summer to visit members of his extended family that he had last seen in 2012. Within weeks of his arrival, the Taliban had seized control of Afghanistan's capital.
"What a mistake we made there," said the man of his decision to travel.
The Canadian joined a sea of thousands who flocked to the airport, clamouring for any opportunity to escape the country.
"Everyone was jammed in the doors," the man told CTV News in a phone interview as he remains in quarantine in Toronto. "We could see little kids were dying because of thirst, because of the push up. Ladies were dying and all of a sudden the Taliban came and they start shooting people.
"One day eight people died in front of us in there."
Desperate to return home to Canada, he joined hundreds of others in wading through the sewage system in an attempt to gain access into the airport.
"We spent about eight hours in the sewage water and make our way slowly until we find army. So I wave and there was an Australian army. I say 'I am Canadian' and they say' OK, hold on," recounted the man. "The Canadian army came, I wave and I show my passport.
"They hold my hand and grab me from the sewage water and took me up with other families that were Canadian."
Within hours, he and dozens of other Canadians were flown to a camp in Kuwait. He spent three nights in the camp before travelling home to Canada. He arrived in Toronto on Aug. 28 where he has remained in quarantine in a hotel room ever since.
The man says he's happy to be alive after escaping the most dire of situations.
"Like me, hundreds of families were visiting and they never expected things would turn so worse. There was not hope for anybody."
He says he had been told that he will need to find his own way home to Alberta and there are other Alberta families facing the same predicament.
The Calgary Immigrant Support Society is currently raising funds to help the man and the families return home after their time in quarantine in Ontario concludes.
The original version of this story indicated the Canadian Red Cross had assisted the man with his travels from Kuwait to Canada. Canadian Red Cross officials confirm assistance is being offered to returning travellers once they land in Canada.