Focus on Africa

Sudan: Red Sea port of Suakin hit by major fire

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The fire which started on Wednesday on the docks of the Sudanese port of Suakin, a commercial crossroads of East Africa on the Red Sea, has been brought under control, its director told AFP on Thursday, indicating that an investigation has yet to determine the causes and the losses.

“Thanks to the intervention of the civil defense forces and port employees, the fire is now under control,” said Taha Ahmed Moukhtar, director of this flourishing trading port under the Ottoman Empire, which was overtaken at the beginning of the 20th century by the construction by the British of Port Sudan, 60 km further north.

An investigation has been opened, he added, to determine the causes of the fire that completely covered the area of the port, located nearly 800 km northeast of Khartoum, with smoke.

While an AFP photographer saw huge walls of smoke on the docks where stored goods appeared to be at the mercy of the flames, a commission has also been formed to determine the losses suffered by the second largest port in Sudan.

Sudan’s Red Sea ports are the transit point for imports and exports from Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic, as well as oil from South Sudan.

In late 2017, Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir — who has since left power — had signed a 99-year lease with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Ankara to restore Suakin, known in particular for its lavish coral limestone buildings under Pharaoh Ramses II.

While renovation work on the historic buildings is underway, work on the port’s infrastructure has not yet begun.

Sudan had already lost 40% of its revenue in October when the international community cut off aid in retaliation for the coup d’état by the head of the army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane.