Clashes between Arab nomads and local farmers in Sudan's West Darfur state that killed more than 200 people over the weekend spread Monday to the state's capital, Al Geneina, with the United Nations condemning the surge in violence.
The mayhem that began Friday followed the discovery April 21 of two nomads' bodies near Hashaba village, outside of the town of Kreinik.
According to a preliminary report, 201 bodies have been identified in roads and other public places, but the death toll is likely to climb, said Assadiq Mohammed, head of West Darfur's humanitarian department.
"Many people have been killed inside their houses. The situation is not conducive to carry out additional counts. Definitely, the number may increase," Mohammed told VOA's South Sudan in Focus on Monday.
The Displacement Tracking Matrix in Sudan, produced by the U.N. International Organization for Migration, estimates that 7,500 to 12,500 households around Kreinik sought refuge in a local military compound over the weekend.
Adam Zachariah, a physician at Al Geneina's main hospital, spoke with South Sudan in Focus reporters Monday. He said armed Arab nomads had stormed the hospital, demanding treatment for their colleagues wounded in the clashes.
"The exchange of gunfire continues this morning," Zachariah said, adding that six Sudanese soldiers reportedly were killed by the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group.
Zachariah, who is in hiding, said he and other health workers have fled the facility.
"The situation in Al Geneina is tense and the main hospital is closed because health workers are not safe to carry out their duties. Some of us have been threatened, beaten and forced to treat wounded people," Zachariah told VOA.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the fighting, which represents one of Sudan's deadliest episodes in recent years. A statement released Monday said he deplored "the killings of civilians in Kreinik locality as well as the attacks on health facilities," and called for "an immediate end to the violence."
The U.N. Security Council ended its Sudan peacekeeping mission in 2020.
The Norwegian Refugee Council also called on all parties to immediately de-escalate and restrain from further harming civilians. "Safe and free passage of fleeing civilians and access for humanitarian assistance must be urgently restored," said Will Carter, the organization's country director in Sudan.
Sudan was plunged into political uncertainty after a military coup last October.
The World Food Program reported earlier this month that at least 18 million people across Sudan are likely to face acute food insecurity by September because of the combined effects of insecurity, economic crisis and poor harvests.