UK to end Sudan evacuation with final flight as death toll rises

World

The final UK evacuation flight will leave Sudan tonight, as the death toll rises in the war-torn country.

Gunfire and heavy artillery in parts of the capital Khartoum, despite a ceasefire between the country’s two top generals, was reported by residents on Saturday.

Some 1,888 people have been evacuated on 21 flights from Wadi Saeedna Air Base since the UK’s aerial evacuation of Sudan began on Tuesday.

The Foreign Office says the evacuation of Britons has been the largest of any Western nation from the country.

British nationals board an RAF plane during the evacuation from Wadi Seidna Air Base
Families gather aboard an RAF plane during the evacuation from Wadi Seidna Air Base
Image:
British nationals board an RAF plane during the evacuation from Wadi Seidna Air Base

The civilian death toll jumped to 411 and the number of injured to 2,023, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, which measures casualties.

More than 50,000 Sudanese refugees – mostly women and children – have crossed over into Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and the Central African Republic since the crisis began, the United Nations said.

It said the diaspora risks raising regional instability, with South Sudan and the Central African Republic scarred by years of ethnic fighting and turmoil and Chad’s own democratic transition derailed by a 2021 coup.

Read more:
‘Death will come to you anywhere’ – mayhem at Port Sudan
Traumatised Sudan evacuees describe ‘horrendous’ scenes
Explainer: What’s behind the Sudan fighting?

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Inside the UK’s Sudan evacuation

Khartoum, a city of some five million people, has become a front line in the fighting between General Abdel Fattah Burhan, the commander of Sudan’s military, and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.

Those who escape the city face further obstacles, with a long and risky overland journey to Port Sudan, where ships have been evacuating people via the Red Sea.

The UK government has said it remains committed to supporting British nationals who remain in Sudan and its focus would now turn to providing consular support to British nationals in Port Sudan and neighbouring countries in the region.

Airlifts have also faced challenges, with a Turkish evacuation plane hit by gunfire outside of Khartoum on Friday.

‘It’s terrible there – the situation is not good’

The Coral Hotel – an architectural replica of the British colonial Governor’s House across the road – is the new office for British consular support.

The operations base relocated from Wad Seidna in Omdurman – roughly 22km from Khartoum and a heartland of fighting – after a Turkish military plane came under fire as it was about to land.

A senior military commander told Sky News that the plane was not following the agreed flight route and was considered a potential threat.

Before the incident, British citizens travelling to Wad Seidna military base condemned the lack of protection en route.

British diplomats were evacuated from Sudan a week into the conflict in a special military operation and the UK government came under fire for not evacuating their citizens. Civilian evacuation missions were announced on 25 April.

Here in the Coral Hotel, there are few British citizens to evacuate.

Many had already made their way – via Egypt and other rescue missions – by the time the UK began its evacuation effort.

Others who came here to Port Sudan left with the first three Saudi Arabian naval ships that transported them for 10 hours across the Red Sea to Jeddah.

The rooms are full of Sudanese-Americans and Sudanese nationals with UK and EU entry permits.

Anyone else is scattered in hotels and accommodation across town and hundreds are sleeping on the hard ground of the port.

“I wish [my family] had these documents so they can leave because it’s terrible there,” says Maowia, a Sudanese-American citizen.

“I feel sorry for them because the situation is not good.”

Inside The Coral Hotel in Port Sudan, an operations base for the evacuation
Image:
Inside The Coral Hotel in Port Sudan, an operations base for the evacuation

Civilians running out of food and supplies

Fighting continued around the presidential palace, the headquarters of the state broadcaster and a military base on Saturday, residents said, despite a ceasefire extended by another 72 hours on Friday under heavy international pressure.

Columns of thick black smoke billowed over the capital city’s skyline.

Those sheltering at home amid the conflict, which is now in its third week, have warned they are running out of food and basic supplies.

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While the military has appeared to have the upper hand in the battle to control Africa’s third-largest nation, there is little hope the conflict will end anytime soon.

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