World News‎ > ‎

Flights To Resume After Blaze Engulfs Kenya Airport

posted 7 Aug 2013, 06:29 by Mpelembe   [ updated 7 Aug 2013, 06:29 ]

Kenya says it will restart domestic and international cargo flights later on Wednesday at Nairobi's international airport after its arrivals building was devastated by fire.

NAIROBIKENYA (AUGUST 7, 2013) (REUTERS) - Kenya said it would restart domestic flights and international cargo flights later on Wednesday (August 7) after the country's main airport was shut following a fire earlier in the day.

Flames from the inferno lit up the early morning sky, and the intense heat repeatedly drove back firefighters. A huge plume of black smoke billowed from the airport buildings, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or injuries.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded outside Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the capital Nairobi, which was cordoned off to keep the public out after the fire started early in the morning in the arrivals and immigration area, officials said.

The cause of the worst fire in record at east Africa's busiest airport was not yet known.

A spokesman for Kenya's presidency, Manoah Esipisu, told reporters that the airport would resume domestic flights and international cargo flights later on Wednesday.

"President Kenyatta wishes to inform all stakeholders and all Kenyans that the fire has been contained and the cause of fire is being investigated and that at this point there is no reason to speculate, he said.

Adding: "Contingency measures have been put in place to stabilize the situation and to return the airport to normal operations. President Kenyatta wishes to reassure the entire aviation industry -- investors, local and international travellers, that everything is being done to resume normal operations and to that end we expect cargo and domestic services to resume from this airport this afternoon."

The airport buildings were ravaged by the fire. Television pictures showed desks that had been reduced to chacoal inside the burned out terminal. The roof had partly caved in, and the floor was flooded with water from fire fighters.

Transport secretary Michael Kamau said no plane had landed or departed since the fire started. Airlines that wanted to take off without passengers have been allowed to do so, he said.

Stranded passengers watched from a short distance as grey smoke continued to billow from the blackened building. Many sat on their bags or on the ground as they waited for information.

Airlines are expected to divert flights to Kenya's port city of Mombasa, Eldoret in the northwest and Kisumu in the west, as well as to neighbouring countries includingUgandaTanzania and Rwanda.

Cabinet Secretary for the Interior Joseph ole Lenku said security had been heightened at the airport after the fire started.

Kenya Airways, one of the leading airlines in the region which uses the airport as its main hub, said it was diverting flights to Mombasa and that transit passengers were being taken to hotels. Other flights had been cancelled.

Shares in the airline fell 2 percent.

Two days ago, a fuel pump failure caused big delays at Nairobi airport.

It was also in the news last week when several duty free shops were forcefully re-possessed by the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) in the early hours of Thursday, following the expiry of a lease agreement.