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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As fighting between rival military generals in Sudan continues to escalate, the White House said the United States is working to help thousands of Americans left behind in the east African nation, including New Bedford native Lakshmi Parthasarathy.
“This is the first time in a long time that I’ve gone through hours without gunshots,” Parthasarathy said, sitting inside a building located near the city of Khartoum.
Parthasarathy spoke to 12 News over Zoom around 6:30 p.m. EDT, which is just after midnight in Sudan. It was the first time she’s had access to internet in a while. The connection was weak at times as she recounted her experience fleeing the violence.
“This was like something out of a movie,” she said.
Parthasarathy graduated from New Bedford High School in 2008 and went on to earn a degree from Harvard University. She was a software engineer at Google when the pandemic forced her to work remotely.
From that point on, Parthasarathy began traveling the world and blogging about her experiences. She’s explored places like Egypt, Afghanistan and Ghana, and Sudan had long been on her list of places to travel.
Parthasarathy arrived in the African country about five weeks ago. After exploring the northern part of Sudan, she traveled to Khartoum — arriving just days before the fighting broke out April 15
“I woke up to what I thought was like fireworks or a thunderstorm,” she said. “It turned out to be a battle happening.”
She documented the early days of fighting on social media.
“It was just like a nonstop barrage of gunshots and shelling and military jets,” Parthasarathy said. “You could see huge plumes of smoke.”
The U.S. Embassy evacuated all of its diplomatic personnel over the weekend and shut down.
Parthasarathy said she was staying on a safe, residential street, but she began to lose access to running water and power, then internet. As her supply of cash for food ran low, and the fighting got closer, she knew it was time to leave.
Parthasarathy and her travel partners hitchhiked and eventually joined residents trying to flee.
“I was leaving without my laptop and all these things, but traveling in this caravan with all these people fleeing their homes with their children, I was thinking, ‘I have it good,’” she said. “It’s hard to watch the people here, who don’t know when the fighting will stop or where they will go.”
While the violence is what’s capturing the world’s attention, Parthasarathy said the country is full of history and culture, and some of the nicest people she’s ever met.
“Before traveling to this part of the world, I had a very one-dimensional view,” she said. “While conflict definitely defines a part of life here to some extent, there’s a whole lot more.”
The U.S. State Department is helping Americans evacuate through Port Sudan, but Parthasarathy said that’s on the other side of the country from where she is.
Parthasarathy said she plans to go to Ethiopia next, so long as the route to do so remains safe.
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