Andrew and Liz Buxton. Photo supplied.
A Dunedin couple have escaped from South Sudan after
surviving a tumultuous fortnight of violence in the world's
Andrew and Liz Buxton, from the Leith Valley Presbyterian
Church, an engineer and an architect, were in South Sudan on
mission work when ethnic violence erupted during the middle
of last month.
In an email to supporters on Saturday, they said they had
been caught up in the fighting while working in Malakal, a
city near the border with Sudan, about two weeks ago.
Armed forces in the city began dividing into pro and
anti-government factions and fighting each other, and Malakal
airport was closed 45 minutes before a flight was due to land
that would have carried them to safety, they said.
The couple spent three days ''hiding in our compound as war
raged in Malakal'', before the situation began to stabilise
from December 27, they said.
That allowed them to seek refuge in a United Nations compound
in Malakal, along with 25,000 others displaced by the
fighting in the city.
They remained in the compound for three nights before
boarding a flight to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The couple said it was ''hard to describe what we went
through in a few words'', but the fighting in Malakal alone
was believed to have claimed the lives of more than 2000
people and 60% of the city's shops had been looted.
That raised the prospect of a food shortage, and the couple
were urging their supporters to pray for the country as it
faced an ''uncertain'' future.
The couple have worked for Serving in Mission, an
international Christian mission organisation, in South Sudan
periodically since 2008. information on Mr Buxton's LinkedIn
Mr Buxton was appointed deputy director of Serving in
Mission's 50-strong South Sudan team last February.
Serving in Mission had since evacuated all its staff from the
country, at least for now, creating a sense of frustration
for some, ''especially after many left South Sudan without
being able to say proper farewells'', the couple said.
''Hearing stories from friends tears at our hearts and in one
sense makes us wish we were still there to try and help in
small ways that we could,'' they said.
Official estimates put the death toll from the violence at
more than 1000, while media reports said another 120,000
people had been displaced as the violence spread.