They negotiated armed Taliban checkpoints, dodged beatings, fled gunfights and stampedes, crossed sewage-filled canals, and waited for hours under a baking sun, but last night more desperate Afghans with New Zealand visas managed to flee chaotic Kabul.
An elderly woman in a wheelchair was among a small group finally ushered inside the razor wire and iron gate perimeter security at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport by soldiers in the early hours of this morning (NZ time).
The Herald understands at least five New Zealand visa holders managed to get through the chaotic and deadly scenes outside the airport, which is being controlled by the Taliban, after hours of negotiations and waiting.
However, in the chaos which included lowering the woman in a wheelchair 1.8m down into a canal filled with half a metre of filthy sewer water and lifted up on the other side, one man got lost in the crowd and separated from the group. He didn't make it through.
The ones who did will now be processed and looked after by a team of 19 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel at an evacuation centre inside the airport before being putting on a military plane out of the country, probably at some point today.
A spokesman for the Afghan Association of New Zealand said last night's efforts to get the group out were a major relief.
"We still have more to go. The next week will be even more chaotic," he said.
It ends days of anxiety for the group, understood to have family in New Zealand, who have been dealing with government officials since the Taliban dramatically took control of Afghanistan on August 15 trying to secure a safe route out.
Security outside the airport has been volatile outside the airport where thousands are gathered.
There have been reports of several deaths, including seven in a panicked crush at the weekend, when an Afghan soldier was also killed in a firefight.
A desperate extended family of 16 were airlifted out on Sunday, stepping over dead bodies to reach US soldiers.
They will now be reunited with a desperate husband, father, and son in Auckland who himself fled Afghanistan in 2017 after his brothers and father were murdered by the Taliban.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been helping more than 200 people but warned its ability to help people outside the airport, where the situation is so volatile, is limited.
The Taliban had warned any attempt by US troops to delay their withdrawal to give people more time to flee would "provoke a reaction" - but US President Joe Biden is reportedly sticking with his August 31 deadline for completing the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday the window to evacuate people out of Afghanistan was "unfortunately very limited".
"Despite our ongoing efforts, we cannot guarantee we can assist all those who are seeking to evacuate," she said.
"We are monitoring the situation and continue to work urgently with our international partners for the safe return of New Zealanders and those who have supported New Zealand."
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130, which left Whenuapai last week, has already made a mercy dash to Kabul's airport in recent days.
Crew managed to airlift a group in a quick turnaround, spending just half an hour on the tarmac.
And another group of New Zealand citizens, their families and other visa holders evacuated by the Royal Australian Air Force, have already safely made it to Auckland and are in MIQ.