No signs of terror in JKIA fire
07 August 2013, 10:27
Nairobi - A massive fire engulfed the arrivals hall at
the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport early Wednesday, forcing it to be closed and the rerouting of all inbound flights.
Dark black smoke that shot skyward was visible across much
of Nairobi as emergency teams battled the blaze. Stranded passengers stood on
sidewalks outside the airport with their luggage in hand.
"It was huge, the smoke billowing, and it didn't seem
to be stopping," said Barry Fisher, who had hoped to fly to Ethiopia on
Associated Press reporters at the scene said the fire had
gutted the international arrivals hall, where passengers pass through
immigration and retrieve their luggage. The Kenya Airports Authority said the
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has been closed until further notice so
that emergency teams could battle the fire.
While there were no immediate signs that terrorism played
any role in the fire, anti-terror police boss, Boniface Mwaniki, told
The Associated Press that he wanted to wait for the fire to be put out so that
he could inspect the scene before making any judgment.
Michael Kamau, the Cabinet Secretary for transport and
infrastructure, said the fire began at 05:00 in the immigration section of the
arrivals hall. He said no injuries had been reported. Inbound flights were
diverted to the coastal city of Mombasa, he said.
As in many countries in East Africa, public sector services
like police and fire units are hobbled by small budgets and outdated or no
equipment. A British passenger, Martyn Collbeck, said he was surprised that the
airport wasn't shut down sooner so that emergency vehicles could respond.
"When I arrived there were one or two fire engines
parked outside the international arrivals. It spread very fast," said
Collbeck, who had been scheduled to fly back to London on an early morning KLM
flight. "There were a couple of explosions which I think were a couple of
But, he added: "I would have expected more fire engines
to respond faster."
AFP said firefighters were tackling the blaze but were
"running dangerously low on water", the interior ministry said in an
appeal to traffic to give way to trucks ferrying water to the airport.
"Apart from emergency landings, all flights into and
out of JKIA have been cancelled ... (the) airport has been shut down,"
The fire broke out shortly before dawn.
There were no initial reports of casualties, but Iringo said
the fire was "massive", adding that the arrivals and immigration
sections were "totally damaged".
Flights were being diverted to other airports, including the
port city of Mombasa, the interior ministry added.
media images showed flames rising high in the sky
and billowing clouds of black smoke out of the main arrivals and departures
terminal, with dozens of police and fire trucks at the scene.
JKIA serves as a regional hub for east Africa, with
many long-distance international flights landing there to connect to countries
across the region.
Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre, in an update given
at 05:00GMT, said that while the blaze had been brought under control in the
international departures areas, fire was still burning at the arrivals terminal.
All roads around the airport had been closed except to
emergency traffic, it added.
"This is a major crisis," said senior transport
ministry official Michael Kamau.
The blaze comes two days after aircraft were delayed for
several hours after the failure of a fuel hydrant needed for refuelling the
JKIA airport is the busiest airport in East Africa,
and its closure is likely to affect flights throughout the region.
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