Huge Fire Shuts Down Nairobi’s International Airport

The Kenyan authorities ordered the closure on Wednesday of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the busiest in the country, after a huge fire broke out and spread to the international arrivals area, officials said.

The fire sent dense black smoke billowing into the sky.

The blaze shut down one of East Africa’s most important transportation hubs, with only emergency landings permitted.

The fire broke out around 5 a.m., when many flights to and from Europe and elsewhere are scheduled. It was contained after several hours, Kenyan officials said, but there was no indication of when the airport would reopen.

Many incoming flights were diverted to the Indian Ocean coastal city of Mombasa.

The fire broke out less than two days after problems with a fuel jet pump forced the diversion of flights to other regional airports including those of Mombasa, Entebbe International Airport in Uganda and Kigali International Airport in Rwanda, Reuters reported.

The blaze sent a plume of black smoke that was visible from the Kenyan capital a few miles away, witnesses said.

Reporters from The Associated Press at the scene said stranded passengers stood on sidewalks outside the airport with their luggage in hand, and that the international arrivals hall had been gutted.

News reports said some emergency vehicles heading for the blaze got bogged down in rush-hour traffic on the airport road.

Wednesday, Aug. 7, is the anniversary of the 1998 coordinated bombings of United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks that killed more than 200 people.

But Kenya’s antiterror police boss, Boniface Mwaniki, told The A.P. that he wanted to wait for the fire to be extinguished before making a judgment about whether terrorism had been involved. Kenya is a key Western ally, abutting troubled areas of neighboring Somalia.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.


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