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Sudan fighting and evacuations continue as U.S. Navy ship brings more than 100 Americans to Saudi Arabia

Americans fleeing Sudan arrive in Jeddah
U.S. Navy ship arrives in Saudi Arabia carrying 105 Americans fleeing Sudan 02:43

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — More than 100 U.S. citizens finally made it to the safety of a port in Saudi Arabia Monday after evacuating the deadly fighting in Sudan. Some were aboard a second convoy of buses that left Sudan's battle-scarred capital of Khartoum on Friday, making the 500-mile drive to reach Port Sudan on the country's east coast.

Sunday night, along with about 200 more civilians from 16 other countries, they left the port on board the U.S. Navy fast transport ship Brunswick. Monday morning, after a 200-mile, 12-hour Red Sea crossing, they reached Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

There was celebration and relief among the weary people coming ashore. They were among about 1,000 U.S. civilians the American government has managed to evacuate from Sudan after more than two weeks of chaos unleashed by Sudan's two most powerful men battling for power.

Civilians disembark from the U.S. Navy transport ship Brunswick at the port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after being evacuated from Port Sudan amid clashes in the east African nation, May 1, 2023. CBS News

The fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, led by rival commanding generals, has left more than 500 people dead according to the United Nations, which expects that to be a low preliminary estimate.

Despite another formal extension of a ceasefire between the sides over the weekend, the sound of shelling and gunfire were still heard Monday morning, and Sudan's two largest cities, neighboring Khartoum and Omdurman, were littered with overturned, burnt-out vehicles and rubble-strewn roads. 

It's a new normal that has driven a frantic exodus of not only foreign nationals, but Sudanese desperate to escape their own country. The sporadic violence continuing despite almost a week of ceasefires has complicated the international evacuation efforts and led to crowds and confusion at Sudan's border crossings.

After a Turkish evacuation flight came under fire earlier in the week outside Khartoum, U.S. officials said the bus convoy carrying Americans on the harrowing drive from Khartoum to Port Sudan was defended from overhead, presumably watched over by drones.

Hundreds of U.S. citizens evacuated from Khartoum 01:41

Even after they made it to Port Sudan, the Americans were stuck there for more than 24 hours before they could board the Brunswick to escape the country.

"I feel relieved," Brooklyn, New York resident Mohamed Farag told CBS News as he came off the ship in Jeddah on Monday. Despite difficulty receiving emails due to communications outages in Sudan, Farag lauded the efforts of the U.S. Embassy staff from Khartoum, who had to orchestrate the exodus largely in exile after American diplomats and their families were evacuated more than a week ago.

"Thank God the ones [emails] we did get, we used it, and we're here," he told CBS News.

Norvibi, just 11, said she was exhausted and afraid after the ordeal of reaching Saudi Arabia.

"It was very scary, because I was scared of the army," she said.

Another American evacuee, Melez Khaled from Queens, New York, said she was also "relieved," adding that she felt "way better than how I felt in Sudan."  

Walking along the port in Jeddah, she said she was "terrified" back in Sudan's capital, where it was "scary to hear gunshots outside your house."   

Second American killed in Sudan amid fighting, U.S. says 05:38

Khaled said she had seen dead bodies on the streets of Khartoum, and the fear as their bus convoy trundled toward the coast was getting stopped by armed factions, as they "might take you off the bus… You really don't know, because they all have the same uniform."

She planned to fly straight back to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia.

"I feel relieved," she said. "I'm happy."

But not every American who wanted to escape has made it out of Sudan. There is no confirmed count on how many U.S. nationals remain in the county, but U.S. officials said Sunday that fewer than 5,000 Americans had sought guidance on how to get out.

Two U.S. nationals, including a doctor who lived in Iowa City who was stabbed to death the day he and his family tried to leave, have been killed amid the chaos

Overnight, more anxious people crowded into holding areas at Port Sudan, waiting for the next ship to spirit them and their families to safety.

If and when they do escape, they will leave Sudan behind, teetering on the edge of all-out civil war. 

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