Passing through deep-water waters, residents of the al-Shigla district of Omdurman, a twin city in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, tried to save what was left of their possessions as they swam past them.
Others despaired, watching the effects of days of torrential rains that brought record floods to the country, where the Blue and White Niles joined to become the Nile.
Furniture, broken tiles, damaged vehicles and more were swept away by this year’s rain, which rained heavily and continuously for nearly two weeks.
Rain and floods exceeded records set in 1946 and 1988, killing more than 100 people and forcing the government to declare a three-month state of emergency this week.
For many Sudanese, such as Amna Ahmed, seasonal rains are nothing new in themselves. The food supplier usually prepares for the rainy season in the country, which lasts from June to October.
Although she lost “everything”
“We lost everything. We lost our homes, furniture, clothes and we would even lose our lives,” the mother of four told Al Jazeera.
According to her, the water levels in the Nile have risen dramatically in the last few days, reaching a peak on Friday night. Since then, it has overflowed, “destroying everything” from homes to trees and cars.
Last week, a commission tasked with dealing with the effects of the floods warned that the country could face more rains, adding that the water level in Sin Nile had risen to a record 17.58 meters.
Experts believe that climate change is a big part of the problem.
Authorities in Sudan on Monday declared a national state of emergency and designated the country a natural disaster zone.
So far, the floods have affected more than half a million people and caused a total and partial collapse of more than 100,000 homes in at least 16 Sudanese countries.
The Sudanese states of Khartoum, Sin Nile and the Nile are among the worst affected, while damage has also been reported in the regions of Gezira, Gadarif, Western Kordofan and South Darfur, according to the UN.
“We are in a very critical situation. The government’s efforts to save us are nothing compared to the amount of actual damage,” said Ahmed, who is now sleeping in front of her destroyed house.
“What we need now is shelter, food, medicine and vaccines for children,” she said.
Desperate cries echo in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, where tents have been set up to house the displaced.
As the government managed to evacuate residents of 43 affected villages across the country, thousands of families in Khartoum were left to stick to what they could save as they waited for the floods to subside.
Some families sleep on whatever dry patches of earth they can find, on sidewalks and in front of destroyed homes.
“No one came to help us”
Meanwhile, Sudan’s civil defense forces are trying to dig a drainage canal designed to reduce water levels in the Nile, but so far it has failed.
Ez Aldin Hussein blamed the government.
“The government is still not doing anything for us,” Hussein, whose home I amn the severely damaged al-Lamab district in southern Khartoum has been partially destroyed, Al Jazeera reported.
“It is known that the rainy season comes every year, but we do not see the government preparing seriously for it,” said the 56-year-old engineer.
Failing to “save our lives and belongings,” Hussein believes the country’s new transitional government is no different from the regime of former President Omar al-Bashir.
Hussein was among millions in Sudan who risked their lives to protest Al Bashir’s oppressive 30-year rule, which ended last year.
Unemployment, deep-rooted corruption and economic sanctions were the main drivers of the mass protests that toppled Al Bashir.
This was followed by the formation of a fragile power-sharing government, which is now working to achieve a democratic transition in Sudan amid acute economic problems.
But for Hussein, these challenges should not hamper the country’s ability to respond to the recent crisis in Sudan.
When the walls of his house fell on his car parked in the driveway, Hussein turned to police and civil defense, but said “no one came to help us.”
“I had no choice but to call my neighbors to help me get my car out from under the wall,” he said.
The Sudanese people rely on a tradition of social mobilization for immediate relief.
“Nafeer” – an Arabic word meaning “call for mobilization” – is to see people turn to each other to seek and offer support. The youth-led initiative brought together thousands of people earlier this month to help fight the crisis.
In Hussein’s neighborhood, young people gathered to organize people, build structures to support displaced families, and load trucks to distribute food and other items.
Ahmed Abul Motaal, a 22-year-old volunteer, said he joined the initiative because he wanted to join the Sudanese tradition after seeing his fellow citizens lose their homes and suffer from floods.
“We are organizing in different neighborhoods to help people,” Motaal said, adding that the initiative also aims to “fill in the gaps that are out of the government’s hands.”
“We have seen houses and elderly people and children collapse [stranded] … We had to do something. “
Additional reporting by Mohamed Alamin in Khartoum.