Feature: Tearful reunions at Zimbabwe’s airport as evacuees from Sudan arrive home

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HARARE –  The terminal building at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare has witnessed countless affectionate hugs, but Sunday evening was unlike any other day as emotions ran high when families received their loved ones evacuated from Sudan.

Tears of joy ran down their faces as a group of 21 evacuees who had been caught in the middle of the crossfire emerged from the exit gate of the arrivals terminal.

The first group of 44 evacuees from war-torn Sudan arrived in Zimbabwe on Friday.

Susan Mukando, an evacuee, could not control her emotions as she narrated the ordeal she went through with her son from the time when they left their apartment amid a barrage of bullets for Port Sudan to the time when they managed to board a ship to Saudi Arabia.

She recalled the devastating situation of helpless Sudanese trapped in their homes, with dwindling supplies of food, water and other life necessities.

“We had a painful experience … it’s not pleasant to relate as I am doing now, it’s very painful to narrate,” Mukando said.

Another evacuee, Pride Mubaiwa, also looked back on the horrors his family went through when battles broke out in the North African country.

“I am traumatized, my wife is traumatized, I don’t even know what my son is going through,” Mubaiwa told Xinhua.

“It was gunfire 24-7. Gunfire, bombings — all different types of ammunition that were being used … so we just feel happy to be home right now,” Mubaiwa added.

Anna Madekubveni, a mother who came to pick her daughters among the evacuees, could not hold back tears of joy.

“I thought my family was going to perish, considering what was happening — the situation was dire, I had completely lost faith,” she said.

Sudan has been embroiled in an armed conflict between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces since April 15.

According to the Zimbabwean government, arrangements for the evacuation of over 100 of its nationals from Sudan were made after the warring parties agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire to allow foreigners to leave.

More than 500 people have been killed and over 4,000 others wounded since the outbreak of the conflict, according to the Sudanese Health Ministry.