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Govt rules out terrorism as cause of JKIA fire

10 August 2013, 16:04

Nairobi - The government on Friday ruled out terrorism as the cause of fire at the country's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) which burned arrival terminal on Wednesday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said investigations are underway to establish the cause of the massive fire that disrupted air travel to and from various destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

"Many have been asking what caused the fire. Investigations are ongoing. Our own security services and agents from other friendly nations are involved in the investigations," Kenyatta said.

"We can now confirm that there was no element of a terror incident in this fire," Kenyatta told a news conference at the airport.

The president, who was at the gutted airport to inspect progress so far in returning one of the busiest airports in Sub- Saharan Africa to normal operations, said there is no evidence of an explosion or an improvised explosive device.

A simple fire gone bad

"This was a simple fire gone bad. Investigators would like to find out what exactly happened. They want to find out who was responsible and why. If anyone is culpable, including for gross negligence, they will be dealt with by the full force of the law," he said.

JKIA is East Africa's largest aviation hub and the fire disrupted air travel across the continent. No serious injuries were reported in the incident which also coincided with the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the U.S embassy in Nairobi.

Kenyatta's remarks come as two U.S. military fire experts arrived in Nairobi to assist in investigations. Washington is also providing immigration equipment to help restore regular international service at JKIA.

In addition, personnel from the U.S. embassy in Nairobi were at the scene to assist Kenyan authorities with preliminary investigations into the causes of the fire.

The investigators are reportedly examining images on the closed circuit television cameras to examine events before and after the fire broke out, as part of their investigations.

May have been caused by air conditioners

It was not immediately clear if the entire sequence of events was captured on the surveillance cameras but witnesses said the explosions were not very powerful or loud, with suggestions that they may have been caused by air conditioners.

He also overhauled the national disaster services and created one coordinating agency to take charge during disasters.

He said all security agencies serving within the airport will also come under the command of a single senior officer with immediate effect.

To enhance passenger comfort, in addition to the facilities the government has made available, Kenyatta said the government will build a new temporary terminal with a capacity of 2.5 million passengers.

"We expect this to be ready and working in the coming weeks. We also expect the commissioning of our Terminal 4, currently under construction, to come on stream earlier than the projected March 4 date," he added.

He expressed delight with the progress that has been made at the airport which has seen resumption of both domestic and international flights.

Kenya Airways, South Africa Airways and Qatar Airlines including other carriers have released their schedules for Friday.

"As you are all aware, the airport resumed operations to all traffic at midnight last night. Passengers are coming in and going out, as it ought to be. They are not as comfortable as we'd like them to be, but we are working on that," Kenyatta said.

He said airport capacity is up to about 70 per cent, adding that safety and security is significantly enhanced at the airport.

He said the authorities are still taking stock of the damage at the Arrivals Terminal but have not yet quantified the cost.

"But we do not intend to do patch work to use the area. We intend to do a full refurbishment of Terminals 1, 2 and 3 once our new temporary terminal is ready," Kenyatta said.

- Xinhua


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