Record Floods Kill Dozens, Threaten Pyramid Sites in Sudan

A national state of emergency was declared for three months

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Flood waters in Tuti island, where the Blue and White Nile merge in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on September 3, 2020.
Flood waters in Tuti island, where the Blue and White Nile merge in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on September 3, 2020.Credit: AFP

Record floods in Sudan have threatened sites housing the royal pyramids of Meroe and Nuri, two of the country's most important archaeological areas, an official said on Tuesday.

On Saturday, Sudan's Security and Defense Council declared a national state of emergency for three months because of floods that have killed at least 102 and damaged tens of thousands of homes people this year and designated Sudan a natural disaster zone.

The Sudanese minister of labor and social development said that in addition to the deaths, floods this year have injured 46 people, inflicted damage on more than half a million people and caused the total and partial collapse of more than 100,000 homes, according to state news agency SUNA.

Creeping desert sands surround the Royal Cemeteries of Meroe Pyramids in Begrawiya at River Nile State, Sudan November 10, 2019.Credit: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/ REU

The royal bath at Meroe, a basin that fills during the annual flooding of the Nile, was at risk from unprecedented water levels, and teams have been working since Monday to protect the site from being swamped, said Hatem al-Nour, director of Sudan's antiquities and museums authority.

Meroe is an ancient city on the east bank of the River Nile about 200 km (125 miles) northeast of the capital Khartoum. It was the capital of the Kush dynasty that ruled from the early 6th century B.C.

At Nuri, about 350 km north of Khartoum, tombs buried 7-10 metres underneath pyramids had been affected by a rise in groundwater, Nour said.

The Nuri pyramids include the tomb of Taharqa, who ruled over lands in modern day Sudan and Egypt in the 7th century B.C. They are an "invaluable historical relic", Nour said.

As in Egypt, local dynasties buried members of the royal family in pyramid tombs.

The rates of floods and rain for this year exceeded the records set during the years 1946 and 1988, with expectations of continued rising indicators, Minister Lena el-Sheikh added.

The council also announced the formation of a supreme committee headed by the ministry of labor and social development to deal with the ramifications of the floods for the fall of 2020, SUNA said.