More than 800,000 people are expected to flee Sudan to neighbouring countries as the humanitarian situation there deteriorates into a “full blown catastrophe”, said the United Nations.
Some 73,000 people have already fled Sudan’s borders to neighbouring countries over the past two weeks, causing chaos as they scramble to obtain visas.
“Without a quick resolution of this crisis we will continue to see more people forced to flee in search of safety and basic assistance," Raouf Mazou, a UN official, told a member-state briefing in Geneva.
"In consultation with all concerned governments and partners we've arrived at a planning figure of 815,000 people that may flee into the seven neighbouring countries."
That figure includes around 580,000 Sudanese as well as refugees from South Sudan and other war-torn countries.
It came as the Foreign Office said on Monday that further flights were expected from Port Sudan supporting British nationals including Sudanese doctors working in the NHS. It said it had evacuated more than 2,100 people so far from Sudan, the largest and longest evacuation of any Western country.
“HMS Lancaster will remain at Port Sudan and her crew will continue to help provide support,” Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary said.
Fighting has been raging in the north-east African country since the middle of last month following a vicious power struggle between the army and a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The army interpreted a move by the RSF to redeploy members around the country as a threat, leading to shooting and explosions in the capital Khartoum.
On Monday air strikes pounded Khartoum again in another violation of a ceasefire designed to allow civilians to seek safety. The intense fighting has made it impossible for the millions of people still trapped in parts of the city to flee while staying put remains equally perilous as medical supplies, food and water run critically low.
Abdalla Sholami, 85, a retired businessman from north London, and his wife were down to their final bottle of water a couple of weeks ago after their home was looted by RSF soldiers, The Times reported.
On Monday his granddaughter Azhar implied in a tweet he had been shot dead.
“My grandfather unfortunately got shot & my disabled grandmother who is also diabetic has been alone for 5 days now. We’re still trying to get her out. We have tried everything. Trying my luck here,” she said.
Azhar, who lives in New York, said that multiple groups had attempted to reach them but had been unable to do so because of the fighting. The British Embassy left Khartoum without responding to the family’s request to send the elderly couple water.
"The scale and speed of what is unfolding in Sudan is unprecedented," said Martin Griffiths, the UN’s relief chief.
Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the country's army, and RSF head Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, have been under pressure to enforce a ceasefire and give safe passage for aid. But though they have nominated representatives for talks on monitoring the ceasefire they have agreed, both are also digging in for what could be a protracted battle.
Gen Burhan has said he would never sit down with Hemedti. The RSF leader said on Monday he would either hand Gen Burhan over to justice - “or to the cemetery”.