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Some 1,000 Americans have been evacuated from Sudan

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Leaders of the warring factions in Sudan have agreed, in theory, to extend a cease-fire from the weekend. But that cease-fire and almost all that have come before it haven't really stopped the fighting.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Thousands of people are still trying to flee the country, including many U.S. citizens and other foreigners. Ships are taking some to Saudi Arabia.

FADEL: NPR's Aya Batrawy joins us from the port of Jeddah.

Hi, Aya.

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: OK. So you're at the port right now. What are you seeing?

BATRAWY: So I'm at a hot, windy, sunny port on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. And I'm looking at a massive U.S. naval ship called the Brunswick that just got here this morning. It was traveling over 12 hours, it seems, overnight from Port Sudan, and it is carrying the first U.S. naval evacuation of U.S. citizens. Around a hundred U.S. citizens are on this ship, and about 200 other citizens from other countries have boarded the ship.

And this is not the first time, though, that countries have used their naval ships to disembark from Port Sudan and bring their citizens here. India has sent several ships. China has done the same. And Saudi Arabia is also sending its naval ships to bring on other citizens of other countries and bring them to the safety of Saudi Arabia.

FADEL: So thousands of foreigners who've gotten to this port where you're at - what are people saying to you who've evacuated?

BATRAWY: So yesterday, I met a guy named Adel al-Bashir. He's a Sudanese American who had been living in the capital, Khartoum, of Sudan for the past six months for work. His wife and kids live in Virginia. He was the sole American aboard a Saudi naval vessel that docked here yesterday. And here's what he told me Khartoum looks like.

ADEL AL-BASHIR: A lot of bombs, a lot of bullets everywhere, dead bodies everywhere, destructions everywhere, and just people - scary.

BATRAWY: So frightening situation in Khartoum.

FADEL: Yeah.

BATRAWY: And then I asked him if he'd gotten any help from the U.S. State Department in evacuating Sudan.

AL-BASHIR: Yes. American Embassy sent me an email, like, three days ago. They asked me to leave within 48 hours, and they arranged this evacuation for me.

BATRAWY: So they put your name on a list for this boat, and then you had to figure out how to get to Port Sudan on your own.

AL-BASHIR: Yes. You have to get - because they cannot do anything inside Khartoum. When I get to Port Sudan, I found everything arranged over there.

BATRAWY: Right. And the reason the U.S. can't do anything inside Khartoum is because the U.S. and many other embassies have closed and evacuated their staff. It's also dangerous getting out of Khartoum. But once you get to Port Sudan, many people are just sleeping roughshod under tarps. But, again, these are the lucky ones that have been able to take this route out safely. And there are still many more trying to do just that.

FADEL: Yeah. I mean, it doesn't sound like an easy journey at all for so many people. What else can you tell us about the situation in Port Sudan, where, as you describe, people are sleeping, trying to get out of the country?

BATRAWY: Right. So there's also people from Syria and Yemen having trouble getting out and coming to Saudi Arabia. But, look, the port finally received some international aid yesterday. A shipment of eight tons of medical aid arrived to Port Sudan from the International Red Cross. And this is significant because we just haven't seen aid agencies do much besides evacuate their own staff from Sudan. And, meanwhile, life in the capital, Khartoum, has come to a complete standstill. Everything is shuttered. Hospitals are running dangerously low on supplies. Something like 60% of all the hospitals around the country have - lacking supplies, have shut down. So there's still a lot of fighting going on, but it's hard to figure that out - where...

FADEL: Now, the people you've been speaking to are people who have another passport or are foreigners. What about Sudanese who don't have that second passport? How do they get out?

BATRAWY: They can't get here. They're not allowed to come here. The - Saudi Arabia does not host refugees, so they're trying to just make it across borders. And that's a really hard journey as well.

FADEL: NPR's Aya Batrawy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Thank you so much.

BATRAWY: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Aya Batrawy