BEIJING: Chinese navy ships sent to rescue citizens from conflict-hit Sudan have also evacuated nationals from five other countries, the foreign ministry in Beijing said on Thursday.
Multiple nations have scrambled to evacuate embassy staff and citizens by road, air and sea from Sudan, where fighting between the army and paramilitaries has killed hundreds and led to acute shortages of water, food, medicines and fuel.
Rescue operations have intensified since a 72-hour ceasefire took effect on Tuesday.
But some fighting was reported around Sudan on Thursday, as well as air strikes in the capital Khartoum.
“So far, more than 1,300 Chinese citizens have been safely evacuated,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said.
She said many had left Sudan on board Chinese naval vessels.
“We have helped citizens of five countries to evacuate Sudan on Chinese ships,” Mao said.
“Other countries have also asked for China’s assistance in evacuation.”
China has deployed the guided missile destroyer Nanning and another supply ship with 490 military personnel on board to assist with the evacuation, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
It is the third time that the Chinese navy has sent warships to carry out an evacuation mission abroad, following rescue operations in Libya in 2011 and Yemen in 2015.
A video clip released by the Chinese navy shows an officer boarding a vessel carrying a toddler and other evacuees waving Chinese flags.
Sudan’s largest trading partner
The first batch of 678 people evacuated by the Chinese team arrived safely at a port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by ship on Thursday morning, CCTV said.
China says it is Sudan’s largest trading partner, with more than 130 companies investing there by mid-2022.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday it estimated about 1,500 of its nationals were in Sudan.
More than 300 Chinese nationals have crossed over to countries bordering Sudan by land, Mao said on Wednesday.
The fighting has killed at least 512 people and wounded more than 4,000, according to Sudan’s health ministry, and reduced some districts of greater Khartoum to ruins.
UN agencies reported Sudanese civilians fleeing the fighting to countries including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan.
16,000 people cross border from Sudan into Egypt
Some 16,000 people have crossed the border from Sudan into Egypt including 14,000 Sudanese citizens, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
With Khartoum’s international airport disabled after battles that damaged many aircraft, groups of foreigners have been airlifted out from smaller airstrips.
Other evacuations were taking place from Port Sudan, an 850-kilometre (530-mile) drive from Khartoum.
An Indonesian military plane flew 110 Indonesian nationals from Port Sudan to Jeddah on Wednesday, the foreign ministry in Jakarta said on Thursday.
It brought to 667 the total number of Indonesians evacuated from Sudan since the conflict began.
UK tells citizens time running out
British citizens in Sudan must board evacuation flights leaving Thursday or risk being trapped in the country when conflict resumes, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
“Now is the time to move because, when this ceasefire ends, my ability to give the kind of limited assurance that I can give now might go. We might not be able to evacuate,” Cleverly told Sky News Thursday.
“We have a number of flights going today and so what I’m saying is get to the airport now whilst we can still facilitate your exit.”
The UK is currently operating evacuation flights to help British nationals and their dependents leave Sudan. Flights are leaving from Wadi Saeedna airfield while Khartoum International Airport is closed.