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NAIROBI, Kenya — A convoy of buses carrying about 300 Americans left the war-torn capital of Sudan on Friday, starting a 525-mile journey to the Red Sea that was the United States’ first organized effort to evacuate its private citizens from the country.
The convoy was being tracked by armed American drones that hovered high overhead, watching for threats. The United Nations and many nations have also evacuated their citizens overland, after receiving security assurances from the warring sides.
It renewed questions about why the United States had taken so long to organize a civilian evacuation from Sudan, home to an estimated 16,000 American citizens, many of them dual nationals, when Western and Persian Gulf allies have moved faster and evacuated far more people.
Britain has evacuated 1,573 people since Tuesday from an airfield north of Khartoum, most of them British nationals. Germany and France have evacuated another 1,700 people by air. At least 3,000 more from various countries have been evacuated by sea from Port Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities said.
As the U.S. ramps up its evacuation effort, other countries are already winding down: Britain announced Friday it would cease its airlift at 6 p.m. Saturday, citing a “significant decline” in demand for seats.
The difference might reflect a more cautious American approach to evacuating civilians by air from a chaotic and unpredictable war zone with no defined front lines — a caution that appeared to be partly justified on Friday when Turkey reported that one of its military aircraft had come under fire as it landed at the airfield on the edge of Khartoum.
The United States has helped American citizens get seats on flights out of Khartoum organized by allied nations, and occasionally on convoys going through Khartoum to the airfield. Other Americans have made it over a border on their own by road, crossing into Egypt and Ethiopia, joining tens of thousands of Sudanese who have made the same journey.
Asked at a news conference on Friday, before word of the U.S.-run convoy had become public, why the U.S. government had not run evacuation transportation in the same manner as other countries, Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, said it was working closely with partner countries on the efforts. “This is a collective and collaborative effort,” he said.
Mr. Patel said several hundred American citizens have left Sudan since the conflict began.
Even so, the line of hired buses that left Khartoum on Friday evening, departing from a luxury golf course near the now-deserted United States Embassy, came a full five days after 72 American diplomats were flown directly from Sudan by helicopter.
The delay between that evacuation, a complex nighttime mission led by SEAL team 6 commandos, and the move to facilitate the exit of American citizens has led to numerous negative comparisons with the efforts of other countries.
The United States initially said it wouldn’t evacuate American civilians or their families, citing a demand that fell significantly below that of other Western nations. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Monday that only “dozens” of U.S. citizens had expressed a desire to leave.
Since then, other American officials have said they do not have a good estimate of the number of U.S. citizens who want to leave at any given time because that shifts as the circumstances of the conflict change.
The war between Sudan’s army, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, entered its 14th day on Friday. At least 512 people have been killed and 4,200 others wounded, the World Health Organization estimates, although the true toll is expected to be much higher.
The scale of fighting declined somewhat in recent days as both sides partly respected a cease-fire, allowing evacuations to take place. Under international pressure, the two sides agreed to extend the cease-fire by another 72 hours from early Friday.
But an explosion of violence in Khartoum hours later, driven by a wave of airstrikes, gunfire and explosions that rocked the city, prompted worries that a return to widespread combat was imminent.
“What I am seeing is thick smoke. What I am hearing is shelling and gunshots,” said Ahmad Mahmoud, a Sudanese resident of Khartoum who witnessed a massive bombardment of the Burri neighborhood on Friday. “Khartoum is becoming extremely unsafe.”
Clashes also continued in the western region of Darfur, especially in the city of el-Geneina, aid groups said.
In an effort to track U.S. citizens in Sudan, the State Department set up a “crisis intake” website on which anyone in the world can register to get information, though it is intended for U.S. citizens and family members in Sudan.
A person registering on the site is taken to a page where they can tell U.S. officials what they plan to do: stay in Sudan, leave on their own or try to leave but possibly with assistance. They can also tell the U.S. government they have already left Sudan. As of Friday morning, fewer than 5,000 people had registered.
For those seeking assistance in leaving, U.S. officials then try to link them to a method of transit and a seat if that is viable. The two main routes out at the moment are British-run airlifts from an airfield in the Khartoum area, and overland convoys to Port Sudan, where ships then take people out via the Red Sea.
That system, however, means that options for evacuation are largely restricted to citizens with access to electricity and an internet connection — which are far from guaranteed. Many residents say they have no power, and Sudan’s telecommunications networks, remarkably resilient in the first week of fighting, have begun to break down.
The overland route to Port Sudan is slow and tiring, especially for evacuees exhausted by two weeks of intense violence in densely populated urban areas that threaten to plunge Sudan, Africa’s third-largest country, into a full-blown civil war.
But U.S. officials say they prefer the land route to the airfield at Wadi Saeedna, just outside Khartoum, which they view as more risky. British commandos currently control that site, but dangers lurk nearby: Turkey said Friday that a C-130 plane flying there for an evacuation had been fired upon with light weapons.
The plane landed safely and no one was injured, Turkey’s Ministry of Defense said in a post on Twitter. The Sudanese military later released a photo purporting to show bullet holes in the fuselage of the Turkish airframe, blaming it on the Rapid Support Forces — a charge the R.S.F. denied.
On the road route to Port Sudan, the U.S. military is able to monitor convoys with drones.
The evacuations sometimes also involve fraught personal conflicts, some worsened by bureaucratic requirements, that can leave families with wrenching decisions.
When Sukaina Kamal got an email from the U.S. government notifying her that the overland convoy was leaving Friday, it presented a dilemma. Although Ms. Kamal’s three children are American citizens, she and her husband are not — and neither is her elderly mother whom she is caring for. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents were being permitted on the convoy.
Moreover, Ms. Kamal and her family are far from the area where the American convoy was departing: Since last week, when fierce fighting spread across Khartoum, they have been living in Wad Madani, a city about 100 miles to the southeast.
Mr. Patel said many U.S. citizens in Sudan have dual American-Sudanese citizenship and have built their lives in the country, making it tough to leave. “This is a very personal and difficult decision,” he said.
American officials report that some people say they want to leave, only to change their minds. Others feel it is too unsafe to get to a pickup point for transportation to the airfield or a convoy departure area. Still, others tell U.S. officials they will leave only under certain circumstances.
The majority of people fleeing the war zone, though, are Sudanese civilians, who continue to pour out of the country in every direction. Some 20,000 refugees have already crossed over the western border to Chad, the U.N. said, while 16,000 others have traveled over Sudan’s northern border to Egypt, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya, Eric Schmitt from Seattle, Edward Wong from Washington and Abdi Latif Dahir from Amsterdam. Cora Engelbrecht contributed reporting from London, and Adam Entous from Washington.
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Fewer Than 5,000 US Citizens Estimated to Remain in Sudan Amid Conflict.How do you prepare for an evacuation fire? ›
Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked. Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters. Remove lightweight curtains. Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.What has happened in Sudan? ›
Intense clashes between Sudan's military and the country's main paramilitary force have killed hundreds of people and sent thousands fleeing for safety, as a burgeoning civil war threatens to destabilise the wider region.How many Americans were evacuated from Sudan? ›
In the day's other headlines: The U.S. began its overland evacuation of Americans trapped by the conflict in Sudan. Some 300 U.S. citizens were bused out with armed drone escorts in the first organized U.S. effort to evacuate Americans there.How many people have been evacuated from Sudan? ›
The UK government has evacuated 2,197 people to safety from Sudan, in the longest and largest airlift by any Western nation during the crisis.What are the three 3 most important elements of an evacuation plan? ›
- Conditions requiring an evacuation. ...
- When to shelter-in-place rather than evacuate. ...
- A clear chain of command. ...
- Specific emergency evacuation plan procedures. ...
- Specific evacuation procedures for high-rise buildings. ...
- Procedures for assisting visitors and employees to evacuate.
Patients in immediate danger (due to smoke or fire) shall be removed first. Ambulatory patients should be accompanied or directed to an adjacent smoke compartment. Non-Ambulatory patients should be moved using wheelchairs or stretchers when available to an adjacent smoke compartment.What is going on in Sudan 2023? ›
An armed conflict between rival factions of the military government of Sudan began on 15 April 2023. It started when clashes broke out in western Sudan, in the capital city of Khartoum, and in the Darfur region. As of 25 April, at least 559 people have been killed and more than 4,000 others had been injured.Is it safe to go to Sudan? ›
Do not travel to Sudan due to armed conflict, civil unrest, crime, terrorism, and kidnapping.Why are people evacuating Sudan? ›
Thousands of foreign nationals have been evacuated from Sudan – and thousands of local families have fled the capital Khartoum – as clashes between two rival military factions vying for control of the country continued despite a supposed truce.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Sudan in 1956, following its independence from joint administration by Egypt and the United Kingdom. Sudan broke diplomatic relations with the United States in 1967 after the start of the Arab-Israeli War. Relations were reestablished in 1972.Why are so many people fleeing Sudan? ›
More than 800,000 people may flee Sudan as a result of the fighting between rival military factions, a UN official has warned. British forces will oversee an additional evacuation flight out of Sudan as fighting continues to rage in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.Where do Sudan refugees go in America? ›
Maine is, indeed, the place that has the largest group of resettled Darfurians in the United States. Several Sudanese ethnic groups live in the United States, amongst them the Maban and Fur people. Political dissidents in Northern Sudan emigrated, fleeing from the oppressive Muslim fundamentalist regime in Khartoum.How many Sudanese refugees are in America? ›
Since the early 1990s, more than 20,000 Sudanese refugees have been resettled in the United States, with about a fifth of that population constituting the "Lost Boys", i.e., young Nuer and Dinka refugees.Where did refugees from Sudan go? ›
Ethiopia. Ethiopia shelters about 70,000 refugees from Sudan, most of whom live in refugee camps in the Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambela Regions.Can US citizens go to Sudan? ›
For US citizens the Government of Sudan requires a passport valid for at least six months and an entry visa or entry permit upon arrival at any port of entry. Most U.S. citizen travelers must obtain an entry visa from a Sudanese embassy before arriving in Sudan.How many immigrants are in Sudan? ›
Conversely, in 2019 the number of international migrants had risen to over 1.2 million and the majority of the international migrants in Sudan were from South Sudan (approximately 750,000) substantially outnumbering the next largest population of around 200,000 Eritreans.Who are the majority of people living in Sudan? ›
The majority of the population in Sudan are the indigenous Nubian inhabitants of the Nile Valley. The majority of ethnic groups of Sudan fall under Arabs, and the minority being Other African ethnic groups such as the Beja, Fur, Nuba, and Fallata.
There are 2.5 million IDPs in Sudan. Most of them are in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states, which have also been epicentres of conflict over the past 17 years.What country can a US citizen not travel to? ›
North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea):
U.S. passports are not valid for travel “to, in, or through” this country, home to one of the world's longest-running dynastic dictatorships.
In short, yes it is very safe for women to travel to Sudan touristically, Sudan is though a relatively conservative Muslim country, so there are still some cultural norms that need to be adhered to.What is the majority race in Sudan? ›
Approximately 70 per cent of Sudan's people are characterized as Sudanese Arabs, with a significant black African minority at 30 per cent, including Fur, Beja, Nuba and Fallata. More than 500 ethnic groups speaking more than 400 languages live within the borders of Sudan.Are there Sudanese refugees in the US? ›
Since the early 1990s, more than 20,000 Sudanese refugees have been resettled in the United States, with about a fifth of that population constituting the "Lost Boys", i.e., young Nuer and Dinka refugees.What race is Sudan population? ›
Sudanese Arabs account for 70% of the population of Sudan, with the rest of the population being Arabized ethnic groups of Beja, Copts, Nubians and other peoples. There are more than 597 tribes in Sudan speaking more than 400 dialects and languages.Who is wealthy in Sudan? ›
|Sir Mo Ibrahim KCMG|
|Ibrahim in 2007|
|Born||3 May 1946 Sudan|
|Alma mater||Alexandria University (BSc) University of Bradford (MSc) University of Birmingham (PhD)|
Sudan is known for its large coastline of about 900km. It is also famous for its proximity to the Red Sea, the confluence of the River Nile, and its Gum Arabic. There are many other interesting facts about Sudan than just the conflicts they are facing.Why are people fleeing from Sudan? ›
The South Sudanese people are caught in a multi-year civil conflict, and the fighting has forced families to abandon their homes, farms and livestock to search for safety.Where do most Sudan refugees go? ›
- Chad. Main article: Sudanese refugees in Chad.
- Egypt. Main article: Sudanese refugees in Egypt. ...
- Kenya. An estimated 52,000 Sudan refugees are living in Kenya. ...
- Ethiopia. ...
- Uganda. ...
- Gulf countries.
Humanitarian assistance in the border town remains substandard. And refugees are living in unhygienic and appalling conditions, with insufficient access to water, food, health care, education, social services, and proper shelter.