Sudan: Canadian recounts how he escaped fighting

The first indication that Sudan was on the brink of civil war was when a bomb exploded in Khartoum just after 9:00 am local time on April 15. Colin Crane, a Canadian mining consultant, could hear an explosion coming from his machine shop and immediately had a hunch.

“I had never felt scared in Sudan before,” Crane, 62, told CTV News from his home in Edmonton of his ordeal after being airlifted out of Sudan on the first Canadian military flight. said.

He had been working in the northeastern African country for more than 20 years looking for gold and oil, and was used to mass protests that regularly seized the capital, but was haunted by machine-gun fire that interrupted the air. The sound upset him.

Khartoum had fallen into the grip of street fighting as the Sudanese army battled a militia group, the Rapid Relief Force, for control of the country. The streets of the capital were the epicenter of their fighting.

When the first explosion was heard, Crane scrambled to gather his work supplies and hurried home. In his haste to secure the apartment, he misplaces his Canadian passport.

Crane lived in the Jabra district of Khartoum. As he returns to his apartment, gunshots are heard and heavily armed Sudanese government soldiers are chasing the guards out of his residence. , said it had emailed the Canadian embassy in Khartoum asking for help.

“I am currently in a shelter … I would like to know if an evacuation of Canadian citizens is planned,” Crane wrote in an email provided to CTV News.

When artillery and airstrikes rained down on Khartoum the next day, he moved to a safer hotel and relied on his Sudanese colleagues to stock up on food and water.

An email from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) that Crane shared with CTV News showed that the department gave him little information other than confirming that Crane was on alert. rice field. Crane was advised to stay away from windows, secure essentials, and keep his cell phone charged at all times.

While he was waiting for details from the GAC, power and water to the hotel were cut off and the nearby City Plaza shopping mall was shelled.

“They used artillery to blow up the mall. It lasted about 16 hours,” he said.

During the explosion, Crane hid in a hotel bathroom and took a video of black smoke rising from the mall. He worried that a false bomb would destroy his building, or that the guards stationed in the lobby would be attacked by looters. was reported to have escaped from At his hotel, he watched Indian citizens board shuttles sent by the government to take them out of the city.

Then, 10 days after the initial connection with the GAC, shortly after a temporary ceasefire was brokered, an email arrived outlining a vague plan for evacuation.

An email sent from GAC’s SOS account on April 25 said it was ready to depart immediately and said only Canadians with valid passports were eligible for the flight. But there were no guaranteed seats. At the time, Canada had not yet conducted its own evacuation flights and relied on allies such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and France.

The Canadian was also informed that he would have to find his own way to Wadi Seidna Air Base to board the relief flight.

“Global Affairs Canada cannot advise or recommend safe transportation … (and) guarantee a spot on a particular flight because it is offered by an ally or like-minded country. you can’t.”

The email also contained a blunt warning.

“The security situation is extremely precarious. There have been reports of looting of private homes. There have also been reports of attacks and sexual assaults, including rape. Foreigners and staff of international organizations have been targeted,” the email said. has read.

“It wasn’t very reassuring. We felt left alone,” Crane said. Fortunately for the consultant, however, his local contacts were more than happy to help. The bank was closed, but I had cash on hand.

After his driver retrieved his passport from his place of work, Crane tried to hire a taxi to take him to Wadi Sayidna Air Force Base on April 26, but was too scared to travel. So he found a truck driver and offered to offer his US$400 to take him on a journey of about 25 kilometers to the airport. During the three-hour ride, Crane says he passed more than 20 checkpoints. He saw soldiers driving away from the ruined city, carrying Kalashnikov rifles, pick-up cannons mounted in the rear of his truck, and even tanks.

“There were so many damaged cars and destroyed buildings,” Crane said. “There was so much destruction.”

Crane arrives at the air force base in time for a restless night in a hangar with hundreds of foreigners. The next morning he was awoken at 5am only to be told that the outbound flight was for British citizens only. Late in the morning of April 27, two Canadian Hercules transports landed. By noon, the crane was airlifted to Djibouti, where he and dozens of other passengers were received by the Sudanese ambassador to Canada. Eight hours later, I was transferred to a commercial flight to Nairobi, Kenya. From there, Crane purchased a flight to Edmonton via Denver, Colorado.

In total, the Canadian government conducted six evacuation flights from Sudan, airlifting nearly 550 passengers. About 175 were Canadian. The GAC said more than 200 other citizens and permanent residents were taken out of the country on flights provided by allies.

The government also provided $274,283 in financial assistance to 108 individuals to help pay for flights from safe third countries to Canada.

Now living safely at home, Crane said he believes the government has done the best it can under the extreme circumstances.

“I wish there was more communication, but the military has done a hell of a job in the short amount of time it took to coordinate the flights. is being done,” Crane said.

The mining consultant says he wants to return to Sudan soon to continue his work, but in the meantime wants to raise money to support the Sudanese people he helped keep safe.

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