By Mo Xiaoliang and Tang Siyu
The Chinese personnel evacuation from Sudan began on April 26 in the waters off the Red Sea, which marked the third overseas evacuation operation conducted by the PLA Navy after the ones from Libya in 2011 and Yemen in 2015 respectively.
The two Chinese naval vessels involved, guided-missile destroyer Nanning and comprehensive supply ship Weishanhu, were under the escort mission in the Gulf of Aden when receiving the order. They got the anchors up and set sail for the waters off Port Sudan immediately. After the high-speed maneuver overnight for over 630 nautical miles, they reached the designated sea area seven hours ahead of the scheduled time, with one ship-borne helicopter and over 490 troops including dozens of special operations members.
During the voyage from the Gulf of Aden to Port Sudan, the naval members conducted table-top drills to simulate various complex scenarios and got prepared as much as possible.
"We must get the evacuees back. If the warships cannot approach them, the assault boats should be sent with sailors and special operations members", Commander Zhao Lang decided, considering that some other countries' evacuation operations in Sudan had been attacked by unknown armed forces.
Thankfully, the two warships successfully docked at Port Sudan on the morning of April 26 with the assistance of Chinese embassies and consulates in relevant countries. As soon as the gangway ladders were lowered, several crew members assigned to the destroyer Nanning quickly got on land and set up a safety zone with dozens of special operations members around for alert.
"Here we are. It's safe now," said Yang Yanhua, commanding officer of the taskforce. The first batch of evacuees who gathered at the dock burst out warm applause.
According to the evacuation plan, more than a thousand Chinese and foreign personnel would board the Chinese naval vessels to leave Port Sudan for the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah, a straight-line distance of about 170 nautical miles across the Red Sea.
To ensure that the evacuees who were just out of danger could have a sound sleep onboard, the Chinese crew spared most of their living quarters together with their beddings, and posted guidance signs in the passage to indicate the locations of restrooms and dining rooms. To provide hot food for the evacuees, the cookhouse squad was almost on duty all day and night.
At around 10 a.m. on April 27 local time, the first batch of 678 evacuees arrived at the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah. The two warships quickly returned to Port Sudan for the next round of evacuation.
On April 29, the Chinese Navy completed the mission of evacuating Chinese personnel from Sudan. In addition to the 940 Chinese citizens, 231 foreign personnel were also evacuated from Port Sudan at the request of their countries.
As introduced by military expert Li Jian, the evacuation operation has tested the maneuverability and professional competence of the Chinese navy, serving as a practice to fulfill the philosophy of building a community with a shared future for mankind as well as a maritime community with a shared future.
Currently, the Chinese personnel withdrawn from Sudan have returned home via charter flights arranged by the Chinese government. At the same time, the two warships have sailed away from the Red Sea to join with the guided-missile frigate Sanya for the follow-up escort mission.