Online posts in Sudan show trapped civilians, doctors in despair
Videos on social media show evacuated hospitals, trapped university students, and civilians sheltering under furniture.
A doctor in grey-green scrubs and a face mask walks into the crowded reception area of Khartoum Teaching Hospital. A thick layer of sweat is visible across his brow.
The room is filled with dozens of visibly exhausted women; some stand while others sit on the floor, slumped against the bare white walls.
In an exasperated tone, he tells the room: “Speak up, people, so we can get out of this disaster. The oxygen will run out, the patients will expire – we ourselves will expire.”
The women are part of a sudden influx of patients caused by the evacuation of the nearby Al-Shaab Teaching Hospital as heavy fighting rages in Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Staff at the teaching hospital had called for urgent assistance to allow its evacuation, but they were able to leave only on Wednesday.
The Sudanese Doctors Syndicate secretary, Dr Attia Abdullah Attia, told Al Jazeera a rocket-propelled grenade crashed into Al-Shaab Teaching Hospital.
The video filmed on Monday is just one of many posted on social media since Khartoum was engulfed in fighting between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) five days ago. Many of these videos show the terrifying reality that civilians face as the city descends into chaotic violence.
So far, nearly 300 people have been killed and many more wounded.
Health system on the brink
Shocking footage emerged from Al-Jawda Hospital, located not far from Khartoum International Airport, which has seen some of the bloodiest violence.
It shows bodies in blood-soaked clothes lying in hospital beds and even on the floor as medical staff try to cope with the overwhelming number of patients coming into the emergency department.
In a statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday, Sudan’s health ministry said 16 hospitals were forced to close in Khartoum state, warning the health system is “facing a complete collapse” if the conflict continues and the number of closed hospitals keeps rising.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Attia said the two warring sides are using the rooftops of hospitals “as a headquarters for launching heavy weapons”.
“Al-Saha Hospital in eastern Khartoum was occupied by the Rapid Support Forces and Al-Shaab Teaching Hospital was occupied by the Sudanese armed forces,” Attia said.
He added hospitals were also facing a shortage of equipment, medicine, and blood bags.
Fierce fighting and aerial bombardments have engulfed the area where the University of Khartoum is located, trapping many students indoors.
On Monday students attempted to evacuate the university, resulting in one person being killed and another seriously wounded.
A widely shared video shows one of the attempted evacuations where students crawl through a hole in a brick wall while others scale a metal fence above.
Several men, a few of whom appear to be armed, help pull them up from the floor. A column of people on the other side of the wall, surrounded by trees, patiently wait in line despite a cacophony of thuds, explosions and gunfire in the background.
1. 89 Students from Khartoum's Faculty of Art have been trapped for two days in a university library after heavy fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces broke out on Saturday. Here is an image of the situation sent by a friend of one of the students. pic.twitter.com/9udSm9wWNT
— Simon Marks (@MarksSimon) April 17, 2023
Another video shows several rooms of a corporate office space where students have taken shelter. Visibly exhausted, many sit slouched on desk chairs, while others lie on the floor. One man hunches against a water cooler as he tries to get some rest.
Lockdown at home
For many civilians living in areas with heavy fighting, it is simply too dangerous to leave their homes, and footage has emerged of terrified families being forced to take shelter under furniture.
One such video shows grandparents trying to comfort crying children as they sit huddled under a wooden table as heavy shelling is heard outside their home.
Cost of war: Students of Comboni school which is located on Qasr street are trapped and can’t get back to their families. The school lies close to the presidential palace, a fighting zone. It’s horrifying to think of what they’re going through. #Sudan pic.twitter.com/GCxDGylGuC
— Hiba Morgan (@hiba_morgan) April 15, 2023
Danger on the streets
It is not possible for everyone to stay indoors. One photo posted on Facebook appears to show smoke billowing from a residential apartment complex.
An entire apartment appears to have been destroyed as fire tears through the lower floors. On the street below, dozens of men, possibly residents of the complex, stand with necks craned as they watch the inferno engulf the building.
Another video shows at least two men standing on a dusty residential street. In the distance, a rumble of artillery can be heard. Suddenly there is a loud bang and sparks appear for a split second before the camera tumbles to the ground.
Online social media posts also appear to show looting on the streets of Khartoum. In one Facebook post, empty cardboard boxes lie strewn all over a street as shops appear to have been violently ransacked, their shutters half ajar.
In another post, it appears there was an attempt to open a safe that was pulled out from the back of a looted store.
Moments of normalcy
Footage also emerged over the past few days that shows pockets of everyday life amid the violence.
One widely circulated video shows the moment a baby was born during the ongoing fighting – the family and doctors smiling and doting on the newborn shortly after the delivery.
Several posts appeared on social media purporting to show groups of men enjoying iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan, in the middle of a motorway.
The footage, which shows them casually talking amid sounds of gunfire and explosions filling the sky around them, was met with some amusement online.