British nationals evacuated from Sudan arrive at the Larnaca International Airport, in Larnaca
A plane carrying British nationals evacuated from Sudan, arrives at the Larnaca International Airport, in Larnaca, Cyprus, April 26, 2023. Reuters

Britain has ramped up an airlift of its citizens out of war-torn Sudan to Cyprus, racing to evacuate as many as possible in a 72-hour ceasefire window, with possibly "multiple hundreds" to be flown out on Wednesday.

Britain began the evacuation on Tuesday, following other nations in pulling people out of Sudan where clashes between the army and the RSF paramilitary group have killed at least 459 people since April 15.

At least 240 Britons arrived in Larnaca in Cyprus from Sudan overnight early on Wednesday.

Diplomats said that about 170 who had arrived on the East Mediterranean island overnight had already been placed on a repatriation flight to the UK. Another 150 were due on an afternoon flight, diplomats said, and more flights were expected during the day.

"This is just the beginning of an operation," British High Commissioner to Cyprus Irfan Siddiq told reporters. "We have 1,000 British nationals that we have contacted directly and about 2,500 already registered with the foreign office registration system so we expect a lot more to come through."

The British government had estimated that around 4,000 Britons were stuck in Sudan.

"The effort is for a smooth operation for people arriving, then leaving as soon as possible," said Theodoros Gotsis, a spokesperson for Cyprus's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has turned residential areas into battlefields and destroyed hospitals.

Both parties agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire beginning on Tuesday after negotiations mediated by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Siddiq, a former British ambassador in Khartoum, said he was confident that "multiple hundreds" could be airlifted on Wednesday. For safety reasons, he said, authorities were encouraging people in Sudan to make their way to the airport, if possible, and board the aircraft provided.

"The situation on the ground in Khartoum is extremely volatile. We simply don't have the means to escort people to the airport," he said.

"This latest ceasefire does seem to be holding to some extent and that's why we have encouraged people to make their way to the airport, if they can, to get onto the aircraft we have provided."