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After resistance and blood shed in the 2018-2019 revolution came the fears of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world began shutting down and economies slowed down to unprecedented levels. Nowadays the latest challenging threat taking a toll on Sudan is the flash flooding of the Nile.

In August, Sudan concluded its summer season with rains, haboobs, and cool whiffs of winds as it marked the onset of autumn, but this time was different. Sudan was hit by unexpected flash floods affecting many parts of the country. It reached to a point where Sudanese authorities imposed a three-month state of emergency across the country after a threatening rise in the tides of the Nile due to heavy rainfall. The floods had killed around 100 people and damaged an overwhelming estimate of 100,000 houses since July this year.

Climate change is worsening climate disasters like floods because of the increase in extreme weather events. The science has warned us that such scenarios [the floods] will soon become our new reality,” Nagmeldin Goutbi El Hassan, a senior researcher at the Higher Council for Environment. & Natural Resources in Sudan

The flooding, caused by seasonal heavy rainfall in neighboring areas, has led the Nile river to rise to 17.5 meters - the highest level in 100 years. On September 6th, the Blue Nile was measured at 17.62 meters, this is half a meter higher than the infamous 1948 flood record which was considered shocking at the time. Tutti Island was no exception from the water-pede that started since the beginning of August. Andariya reached out to one of the victims of Tutti Island to discuss what he had experienced over the past few weeks. From the looks of it, it was obvious that over the span of days, the Nile grew in size and force.

1st Week of August: Nothing Seemed Unusual

“We have never expected this,” the 22-year-old, Khedir Hassan said with despair in his eyes as he had never seen something like this happen in Tutti. Tutti Island is one of the most affected areas by the flood. The fact that the island is located in the middle of the vast river, where the Blue and White Niles intersect, ensured it was one of the first areas in Khartoum to be flooded.

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Residents of Tutti Island building and placing barricades against the river. Photo Credit: Khider Hassan

Khider continued demonstrating how he and other members of the Tutti Island community were regularly checking the levels of the tides. “Since mid- August, we have been monitoring the water all around the island. We thought it would be like any other year, we didn’t worry much about it. It's normal that the river rises up during autumn season, the Nile is being fed from further states where it rains. What we usually do is retrieve our farming businesses and take our livestock to herd closer to mid-land. At the coasts, we hold up barricades against the high currents of the river, just in case it crossed over to some extent. "

But this was not the case this year.

The water levels continued to rise in a quick manner within a matter of hours. A couple of days later, it broke the barricades on the eastern side of the island. It was so high and rushing further in, the water was heading towards the houses on that side.

Mid-August: Unexpected Turn of Events

The rush of the floods was unexpected and fast, it damaged most of the houses on the eastern side of Tutti. Women, kids and old men took out to the streets carrying whatever valuable things they had; they didn’t want to risk being inside their houses while the roofs collapsed over their heads. The rest of Tutti’s men immediately rushed to the coast, thinking they might do something to stop the current. But the speed of the waters hitting the barricades and bursting large gaps through rocks, sandbags, and barks of wood was an overwhelming scene. Even more so, we did not find anything around to add or build to block the flooding further. Khedir and the rest of the men couldn't just stand there and watch their neighborhoods and loved ones drown. They decided to lay down and form several rows of human barricade while waiting for the government’s support to arrive.

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Residents of Tutti Island forming a human barricade by holding hands and siding their backs together. An attempt to slow down the flood currents. Photo Credit: Khider Hassan

September: Real damage, yet Hopeful

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of it. Just when we thought things were under control, the floods on the western side of the island also broke in. The waters had fully covered the large acres of farms as far as the eye can see, and drowned animals including cows and other livestock. Some were even carried away far off from the island. Everything disappeared underwater. It’s like Tutti was being slowly swallowed by the Nile.

Days later, the western side of Tutti Island was almost a drowned ruin. Houses were collapsed and destroyed by continuous currents. People had to evacuate immediately for their own safety as the barricades were getting weaker by the minute, unable to hold up in the face of the flooding. Some had left to safer locations on the island, others left the island to where their relatives lived in the city. People were scared, lost and helpless. But even with the dark-side of things, Khidir feels people were brought closer and became more united as a community than they have ever been before. He described the aftermath “we used to be a community, but now we are one big family. What I have, is what you have. I help you and you help me back”.

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Ever since the flooding started, Tutti residents were on a 24 hour surveillance, exchanging shifts for different tasks. Some volunteered to help with settling safe areas for women, children and older people, others took on security. The men took part in keeping an eye on the levels of the Nile, building more barricades and bringing in more blocks. Others were aiding and assisting the ones whose houses had been affected by the floods. Everyone was contributing at the same time.

Khider expressed his gratitude that his family and friends are safe where they are living on the Eastern side of Tutti as it was not as bad as the western side. He added "I’m lucky that I live on the eastern side and my house is far, for now, from the damage that I have witnessed on the western side of the island. Though the situation is worrying and we never know what God planned for us tomorrow, I am hopeful and staying positive no matter what. Tomorrow will be a better day and the Nile will return back to where it was."

How can you help?

Sudan needs support more than ever. If you want to help the victims of the floods in Tutti Island or in other areas in Sudan, you can donate to Nafeer – which traditionally refers to "running to help". Nafeer is a Sudanese non-profit organization which works in assisting in people in need and crisis management. This initiative helps the victims of the floods by providing temporary shelters, covering urgent food needs, and handling medical emergencies resulting from the disaster.