Britain has airlifted around 900 from Sudan to Cyprus

By Yiannis Kourtoglou and Michele Kambas

LARNACA, Cyprus (Reuters) - Britain had evacuated around 900 of its citizens from Sudan through Cyprus as of early afternoon Thursday and urged those remaining in the conflict-riven country to grasp an opportunity to leave during the final hours of a cease fire.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the capital Khartoum in nearly two weeks of conflict between the army and a rival paramilitary force - the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) - which are locked in a power struggle threatening to destabilise the wider region.

The airlift of British nationals began on Tuesday.

By early afternoon, around 900 people had arrived at the Cypriot airport of Larnaca on British Royal Air Force flights, sources at the airport said. Just over half of them have been repatriated to Britain.

Two more flights from Sudan were expected later Thursday.

Razan Wahbi, 44, travelled out with her twin daughters, aged 7. She said she had to leave her husband Ghassan, a non British passport holder, and other members of her family behind.

"I left them there, only I have a British passport. They don't have (one), so there was no way to get out," she told Reuters as she waited to board a flight chartered by the British government to a London airport.

Another said he too left family behind. "Its very hard to get water, electric, you can't move anywhere," said Hamid. "Its very bad, very dangerous. I've never seen a problem like that.

"Sudan has been at war a long time, but this is different."

At Larnaca the evacuees from Sudan crossed paths with the first tourists of the season arriving at the holiday island.

Many had to leave with just the clothes on their back. Tarek, 52, had stuffed all his belongings in a small green bin bag, which had started to tear.

The 52-year-old, who lives in Oxford, had gone to Khartoum to visit his father, in intensive care after suffering a heart attack and who later died.

"What is happening there is terrible. People there are just like ghosts, a shell of their former selves. I never thought I would get out," he said.

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)