Kenya airport resuming some flights after massive fire
(CNN) — Flights were taking off and landing at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Airport Wednesday after the facility was damaged extensively and shut down by a massive fire.
Domestic flights resumed Wednesday, Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau told reporters. International arrivals will resume Thursday, but there is no information about when departures will begin.
Authorities are allowing cargo currently at the airport warehouse to go out of the country. Kenya Airways announced a limited resumption of flights, including domestic flights Thursday to and from Mombasa and arrivals Friday from London and Bangkok.
The blaze had engulfed the airport’s entire international terminal, Ken Mijungu of CNN affiliate NTV reported. No casualties were reported from the fire, which sent a large plume of thick black smoke into the sky.
Fire engines ran dangerously low on water during early stages of battling the flames, the Interior Ministry tweeted. But authorities say the fire has been contained
The blaze could have a serious impact on the flow of tourists into the country and the export of agricultural products. A major travel hub in Africa, Nairobi is the capital of Kenya. Fresh fruits and vegetables are exported from there to Europe by plane many times a week.
“There has been serious disruption of the aviation operations at the airport,” Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s secretary of communication and State House spokesman, said in a prepared statement. “Contingency measures have been put in place to stabilize the situation and to return the airport to normal operations.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene. Esipisu said in the statement that the president reassured the aviation industry and local and international travelers that everything is being done to get back to normal and help lines have been set up.
“To the thousands of passengers, including tourists, whose journeys were disrupted, the president shares your concerns and regrets the inconvenience. We are concerned that the incident interrupted travelers’ schedules and appreciate that they are being routed to their destinations as soon as is possible,” Esipisu said in the statement.
Battling the blaze
Mijungu said parts of the duty-free area had been demolished for construction last week, but the cause of the blaze was not known. Nothing has been ruled out, Kenyan government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said.
“The cause of the fire is being investigated. There is no reason to speculate at this point. There was no loss of life,” Esipisu said.
The blaze occurred on the 15th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
It also came days after the United States issued a worldwide travel alert and closed a number of embassies and consulates over large areas of the Middle East and Africa — but not in Kenya or Tanzania.
In the 1998 near-simultaneous attacks, 224 people died and about 4,500 were injured.
Security is being ramped up at the airport, said Josef Ole Lenku, Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for interior and security.