Kenya Resumes International Flights After Fire Shuts Airport

By Sarah McGregor | August 8, 2013

Kenya accepted some incoming international flights at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after fire engulfed the arrivals terminals yesterday and shut operations at the busiest air-transportation hub in East Africa.

Flights from Bangkok and London arrived this morning in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on its Twitter feed. The airport hasn’t “officially” resumed handling international flights, Kenya Airports Authority said on its Twitter account. The civilian aviation authority gave clearance for some cargo and domestic flights carrying passengers to restart yesterday.

“JKIA Unit 3 terminal is now international departures,” the ministry said, referring to the facility’s domestic-flights unit. “Tents are set up at Unit 3’s other side to serve temporarily as international arrivals.”

The fire razed the arrivals terminal of the main airport, the fourth-busiest in sub-Saharan African, which is an important link for exporting tea, coffee and horticulture products and handling tourists, all of which are the biggest foreign-currency sources for Kenya.

Another “small” fire that broke at about 12:17 a.m. at the arrivals terminal was extinguished within 13 minutes, the ministry said.

Obama Call
U.S. President Barack Obama called his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, yesterday to offer support after the blaze, according to a statement on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya’s website. Obama also expressed his condolences on the 15th anniversary of twin coordinated attacks by al-Qaeda on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which more than 224 people died.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire and “there is no reason to speculate at this point,” presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu said yesterday.

Kenya Airways Ltd., the country’s flagship carrier, said it has resumed a limited number of domestic flights, rerouted some international flights through the port city of Mombasa and plans to start flying to destinations abroad later today including Johannesburg, Mumbai, Dubai, Paris and London. The company’s shares were unchanged at 9.5 shillings today.

Kenya is the world’s largest black-tea exporter and it supplies one third of the flowers traded in Europe. The country’s wild game parks and Indian Ocean beaches draw almost 2 million tourists a year from countries including the U.K. and U.S.

The currency of East Africa’s largest economy was little changed at 87.44 per dollar by 9:53 a.m. in Nairobi after weakening 0.2 percent yesterday.

The Kenya Airports Authority posted a photo on its Twitter account of a make-shift international arrival terminal in enclosed tents set up on pavement.

–Editors: Paul Richardson, Emily Bowers

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