JAKARTA/MANILA/NEW DELHI: Asian nations were rushing on Monday to evacuate their citizens from Sudan, with officials working to overcome security and logistical challenges amid heavy fighting between the country’s rival military factions in the capital Khartoum.
More than a week after clashes broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, Sudan has seen more than 420 people killed and over 3,700 others injured as millions of its people are trapped without access to basic services.
Foreign governments stepped up efforts over the weekend to evacuate thousands of their stranded citizens by air, over land and via Port Sudan on the Red Sea as the ongoing violence affected operations at the main international airport in Khartoum and limited other options for safe passage.
More than 500 Indonesians who were evacuated from Khartoum using buses arrived in Port Sudan early Monday morning after about 15 hours on the road, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.
“Five-hundred-thirty-eight Indonesian citizens who have been evacuated are resting in a temporary house in Port Sudan before they depart to Jeddah through (the) sea route,” Marsudi said in a video statement issued on Monday morning.
The group is only the first batch of evacuees, Marsudi said, as at least 289 Indonesians in Khartoum are still waiting to be evacuated “at the first opportunity.” There are 1,209 Indonesian nationals in Sudan, according to foreign ministry data.
“The evacuation in Sudan is really not easy. Evacuation was carried out amid ongoing fighting,” Marsudi said. “The situation on the ground is extremely fluid and dynamic.”
An Indonesian military aircraft set off for Jeddah at noon on Monday, where it will stand by and be ready to fly between the Saudi port city and Port Sudan to evacuate Indonesian nationals.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs was preparing on Monday to evacuate 50 Filipinos, who will likely leave Khartoum by bus.
“It is hoped that as early as today, Monday, a first group will be able to leave Khartoum towards Egypt,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told Arab News.
At least 700 Philippine nationals are in Sudan, around 300 of whom have requested repatriation.
The Philippine Honorary Consulate in Khartoum has also been sending money to Filipinos in the country “so they could purchase food supplies,” de Vega said.
The first batch of Filipino evacuees is likely to cross the northern border into Egypt and head to Cairo through Aswan by bus.
De Vegas said another option is for them to go to Port Sudan and take the ferry to Saudi Arabia.
Filipinos were among dozens of foreigners evacuated by the Kingdom on Saturday, in an operation that pulled out over 150 people from Port Sudan by naval ship across the Red Sea to Jeddah.
The evacuation involved 91 Saudi citizens and dozens of people from other countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE.
India, which has about 3,000 citizens in Sudan, announced Operation Kaveri on Monday “to bring back our citizens stranded in Sudan.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs earlier said two military planes are on standby in Jeddah and a naval ship was docked in Port Sudan.
“About 500 Indians have reached Port Sudan. More on their way. Our ships and aircraft are set to bring them back home,” India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in a tweet.
A South Korean envoy was reportedly at the King Abdullah Air Base in Jeddah on Monday to receive dozens of Korean nationals evacuated from Sudan, after the country’s military said on Friday it was sending an aircraft to Djibouti to stand by for rescue efforts.
The evacuations by Asian nations are taking place alongside similar operations by the US, European countries and other foreign governments. Efforts intensified on Monday during an apparent lull in fierce fighting between the army and RSF.
The fighting in Sudan has closed most of the country’s hospitals, while also hampering water and electricity supplies. Many Sudanese are also fleeing the country, with around 10,000 people reportedly entering South Sudan in recent days.