On Sudan’s Tuti Island, where the Blue and White Nile meet, the highest river waters since records began have left people struggling to hold back the rising floods.
Wedged between the twin cities of Khartoum and Omdurman, people on Tuti fill bags with sand and small stones in an often futile bid to stop the lapping water from swamping their homes.
The world’s longest river is life-giving, but the Nile also brings misfortune and misery to many.
Watch: Drone footage from #Sudan shows the scale of the floods that have inflicted damage on more than half a million people and caused the total and partial collapse of more than 100,000 homes.#SudanFloodshttps://t.co/x1QsrvF2DV pic.twitter.com/kWRcugnQt8— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) September 7, 2020
“Three days ago the water invaded my house around midnight,” said Swakin Ahmad, dressed in a red headscarf.
“We were knee-deep in it. My husband and I, with our five children, fled... carrying a few things in our hands.”
Every year during the rainy season the river floods, and the people of the island expect the waters to rise.
But nothing in the past compares to the floods of today, residents say.
More rain forecast
“In previous years, we would leave our house for two months to live with friends,” Ahmad said.
“But this year that was impossible, because water had entered their homes too.”
Civil defense officials say that seasonal floods have killed 94 people, injured 46 and destroyed or damaged over 60,000 homes across Sudan during the current season.
The level of the Blue Nile has risen to 17.57 meters, the ministry of water and irrigation said this week, breaking all records since measurements began more than a century ago.
But many fear the worst is yet to come.
Heavy rains are forecast to continue through September, both in Sudan and upstream in neighboring Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile.
“Young people tried to rescue things from my house,” Ahmad said. “But it was hopeless, because they had water up to their necks and could not see anything.”
Residents have thrown up makeshift barrages in the path of the water, but their efforts have been engulfed by the rising river.
Iqbal Mohamed Abbas, who welcomed many of those forced from their homes at her educational center, described “the courage with which young people tried with simple means to slow down the flood.”
She recalled previous occasions when the island was flooded, remembering a tune her grandparents sang decades ago.
“I am proud of these young people who came to try to stop the Nile with their bodies,” Abbas said, reciting the lyrics.
But this time it appears much worse.
Sudan’s water ministry predicts that this year’s flood is larger than that of 1998, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes in several states and displaced more than a million people.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that more than 380,000 people have already been affected across the country.