Early Wednesday morning, at approximately 5:00 a.m., a major fire broke out around dawn at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. Three hours later, a fire brigade was still battling it. The paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) has cordoned off the areas of the airport where the fire contiues to rage, and the airport has been temporarily closed.
Billowing smoke could be seen from miles (kilometers) away.
“So serious,” is how Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo said, describing the inferno on a phone from where he watched it in person consume a large part of the airport.
According to Eric Kiraithe, the Head of Security at Kenya Airports Authority:
By our own standards this is so big.”
Arriving at 5:00 a.m., an airport official said he found smoke billowing from the terminal.
Planes already on the runway, according to Mr. Kiraithe, were being cleared to pave way for emergency landings. He added that they were liaising with the police to clear Mombasa Road for emergency vehicles:
The immediate step at the moment is to clear the Mombasa highway for emergency purposes.”
Another official said that water hydrants had failed.
Reporters at the scene described the blaze as huge. They said it looked as if the fire had gutted the international arrivals area. That is where passengers pass through Immigration and retrieve their luggage upon disembarking from their planes.
At 8:00 a.m., emergency services from the military, fire brigade, Nairobi County and Kenya Red Cross were still battling the fire. The fire is believed to have started from the Immigration area of the busy airport.
Outside the airport, stranded passengers stood on sidewalks holding their luggage.
Inbound flights have been rerouted to other Kenyan airports.
The Kenyan airport in Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, will be closed until the fire, reported to be a major one, is put out and any necessary rescue operations and repairs to the airport are concluded. So far, no injuries or casualties have been reported.
Written by: Douglas Cobb