On the evening of Friday 3 August, the residents of Sharg Elneel – 15 kilometres to the east of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum – were taken by surprise by severe flash floods. The floodwater rose so quickly that the residents had little time to comprehend what was happening.
Saliheen Abdel Gader was shocked to return home after prayers at 11pm to discover his house and street flooded. “There was water running very fast down the street and, as I went inside my house, it was also full of water. I rushed to wake up my wife and children, who were fast asleep,” he says.
Saliheen is a resident of Maraabie Sharif, one of the worst affected districts, and he quickly evacuated everyone in the house. “After half an hour, I had already carried one of my children on my shoulders, then my brother, my wife, and my two other sons. Out in the street, the water level had reached our chests.”
Together with their neighbours, Saliheen and his family managed to climb onto a pile of sand inside a building on a construction site. The thundering water started to washed away the sand pile, but they stayed there until 4am, when the army arrived with boats. They were transported to the tarmac road nearby, the highest ground in the area, which was also under water. The army then left them in order continue evacuating other residents.
The intensity of the flash floods was such that even newly constructed houses made of concrete were severely affected in Maraabie Sharif. The sheer volume of water left the sewage system unable to cope, and the tarmac road collapsed in various places.
Once the the water started to recede that afternoon, the family went back to their house. All that was left was the shell of the house and piles of rubble. Saliheen’s wife is just grateful her husband came home when he did.
Tired and sleeping soundly after a long day of arrangements before Eid al-Fitr, she knows they had a lucky escape. “If my husband had not come home at that time, we would not have come out of the house alive.”
Red Crescent volunteers swing into action
The Sudanese Red Crescent Society mobilized its network of volunteers to help evacuate people affected by the floods, and to provide first aid and psychosocial support.
Abdul Rahman, the volunteer supervisor in the area of Sharg Elneel, says: “We set up five tents along the affected areas to be used as field clinics to provide first aid to the many wounded people.”
The National Society has also been distributing relief items to affected families and has, so far, reached more than 9,700 households.
“Since that day, we have the challenges of shelter, water and food, but we are grateful to the people who have been assisting us, although it is like a drop in the ocean!” says Saliheen.
The Sudanese authorities estimate the total number of completely destroyed houses is 13,874 in the states of Red Sea, Gazira, River Nile, Northern and North Darfur. More than 135,000 people have been affected so far, and they are in dire need of food, shelter and medicine. At least, 36 people are reported to have lost their lives.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society’s operation.