Sudanese flee to coastal city and Egyptian border in bid to escape fighting

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Sudanese fleeing the fighting between rival generals in their capital Khartoum have flooded into an already overwhelmed city on the Red Sea and to the northern border with Egypt.

Many exhausted Sudanese and foreigners arrived in Port Sudan, the country’s main seaport, joining thousands who have waited for days to be evacuated out of the chaos-stricken nation.

Others have been driven in packed buses and trucks, seeking shelter in Egypt.

“Much of the capital has become empty,” said Abdalla al-Fatih, a Khartoum resident, “All our street fled the war.”

The fighting, now in its third week, has turned Khartoum and the neighbouring city of Omdurman into a battlefield. Fierce clashes have taken place inside residential neighbourhoods that have become “ghost areas”, residents said.

Mr Al-Fatih’s family managed to get out of Khartoum over the weekend after they spent the past two weeks trapped in their home in the neighbourhood of Kafouri, a major flashpoint since the fighting broke out on April 15.

They arrived in Port Sudan late on Monday after an exhausting 20-hour trip, he said. There, they found thousands, including many women and children, camping outside the port area. Many had been there for more than a week, with no food and other services, he said.

Port Sudan has become a hub for foreign governments to evacuate their citizens by air and sea.

At the congested crossing points with Egypt, thousands of families have waited for days inside buses or sought temporary shelter in the border city of Wadi Halfa to finalise their paperwork to be allowed into Egypt.

Yusuf Abdel-Rahman is a Sudanese university student who crossed into Egypt along with his family, through the Ashkit crossing point late on Monday. They spent their night at a community hostel in Egypt’s southern city of Aswan and plan to board a train to Cairo later on Tuesday, he said.

Egypt Saudan Evacuees
Evacuees carry their luggages as they cross into Egypt through the Argeen crossing (AP)

“It’s a chaotic situation (in Arqin),” he said over the phone. “Women, children and patients are stranded in the desert with no food, no water.”

Mr Abdel-Rahman reported widespread destruction and looting particularly in an upscale neighbourhood in the capital.

He said a neighbour told them by phone that armed men in RSF uniforms stormed their home in Khartoum’s Amarat neighbourhood on Friday, a day after they fled the capital. Many Sudanese have taken to social media to complain that their homes were stormed and looted by armed men.

Tens of thousands have already fled Sudan to neighbouring countries, including Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Ethiopia. And the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned that the number could surpass 800,000.

“We hope it doesn’t come to that, but if violence doesn’t stop we will see more people forced to flee Sudan seeking safety,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Early on Tuesday, the sound of explosions and gunfire echoed though many parts of the capital, with fierce clashes taking place around the military’s headquarters, the international airport and the Republican Palace in Khartoum, residents reported.

The military’s warplanes were seen flying overhead across the capital.

The fighting has come despite both sides declaring on Sunday a second, three-day extension of a humanitarian ceasefire to allow safe corridors for healthcare workers and aid agencies working in the capital.

“The war never stopped,” said Atiya Abdalla Atiya, secretary of the Doctors’ Syndicate. “Doctors can’t move safely. Hospitals were still occupied.”

Morgues across the capital are overcrowded with bodies and people are still unable to collect relatives to bury them, he said. Many injured do not have access to hospitals, he added.

At least 436 civilians have been killed and more than 1,200 injured since the fighting began, according to figures on Monday from the Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties.

As of a week ago, the Sudanese Health Ministry had counted at least 530 people killed, including civilians and combatants, with another 4,500 wounded, but those figures have not been updated since.

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