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Evacuees glut Sudan port to escape Khartoum fight

by SAMY MAGDY The Associated Press | May 3, 2023 at 4:18 a.m.
CORRECTS DATE In this screen grab taken from video, Sudanese and foreigners arrive in Port Sudan, the country's main seaport, as they wait to be evacuated out of Sudan, Saturday April 29, 2023. Sudanese fleeing the fighting between rival generals in their capital flooded an already overwhelmed city on the Red Sea and Sudans northern borders with Egypt, as explosions and gunfire echoed Tuesday in Khartoum. (AP photo/Smowal Abdalla)

CAIRO -- Exhausted Sudanese and foreigners joined growing crowds at Sudan's main seaport Tuesday, waiting to be evacuated from the chaos-stricken nation. After more than two weeks of fighting, areas of the capital of Khartoum appear increasingly abandoned.

The battle for control of Sudan erupted April 15, after months of escalating tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and a rival paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

Other nations have tried to convince the two generals to stop the fighting and come to the negotiating table.

The government of South Sudan, which officially split from Sudan in 2011, said Tuesday the two rival generals have agreed in "principle" on a weeklong cease-fire starting Thursday and engaging in peace talks. The statement did not elaborate on the possible venue or timing for the talks.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir spoke with both Burhan and Dagalo over the phone, the government said in a statement. There was no immediate comment from either the army or the paramilitary.

Meanwhile, civilians were packing buses and trucks for Sudan's northern border with Egypt. Many others headed to Port Sudan, on the country's Red Sea coast.

Tariq Abdel-Hameed was one of around 2,000 Syrians in Port Sudan hoping to get out by sea or air. Some 200 Syrians have been evacuated since the crisis began. The first Damascus-bound flight was scheduled to take off later Tuesday, Abdel-Hameed said, with about 200 on board, mostly pregnant women and sick people.

At the congested crossing points with Egypt, thousands of families have waited for days inside buses or sought temporary shelter in the border town of Wadi Halfa.

The fighting has displaced at least 334,000 people inside Sudan, and sent tens of thousands more to neighboring countries -- Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia, according to U.N. agencies. Aid workers are increasingly concerned about lack of basic services in these areas.

Between 900 and 1,000 people arrive daily at the border with Ethiopia, Paul Dillon, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said at a news briefing Tuesday in Geneva. At least 20,000 people crossed into Chad, which borders the Darfur city of Genena where clashes last week killed dozens and wounded hundreds.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned that the number of people fleeing to neighboring countries could surpass 800,000.

At least 447 civilians have been killed and more than 2,255 wounded since the fighting began, according to figures provided Tuesday by the Sudan Doctors' Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties. The Sudanese Health Ministry said it counted at least 550 people killed, including civilians and combatants, with more than 4,900 wounded as of Monday.

Besides the South Sudanese proposal, there have been other suggestions aimed at stopping the violence and avoiding a worsening humanitarian disaster.

Both sides agreed to send representatives for talks that would potentially be held in Saudi Arabia, according the U.N. envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes. The kingdom has joined the United States in pressing for a lasting cease-fire.

Information for this article was contributed by Jamey Keaten of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Evacuees glut Sudan port to escape Khartoum fight


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