Wednesday, August 7, 2013

■■ KENYA: Huge blaze rips through Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Kenya Airport Authority KAA
A devastating fire tore through the International Arrivals building and Unit 1 departures at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday, August 7, forcing the local authorities to temporarily close the airfield until further notice. The fire was under control after three hours with no injuries, fatalities or damage to any aircraft thus far having been recorded. Kenya Airways did report that one member of its staff and a passenger had slight smoke inhalation and were safe in hospital for further investigation. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has granted clearance to the Kenya Airports Authority to use Unit 3 for international departures and arrivals.

The Kenya Airports Authority said the inferno broke out at 04h35L with emergency services including the military, fire brigade, Nairobi County and Kenya Red Cross called to respond. The airport was subsequently cordoned off with access available to only emergency services and the police.

By 09h00L, the fire had been "mostly contained" according to the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo.

Transport Secretary Kamau said the fire started at the immigration area of the International Arrivals terminal then spread to the customs/buggage area.

President Kenyatta visited the scene at 9am. Also at the airport were Cabinet Secretaries Joseph ole Lenku (Interior), Michael Kamau (Transport) and Anne Waiguru (Devolution). He described the incident as causing a "serious disruption" to the airport's operations.

Kenya Airways (KQ) says that all their flights have been cancelled till further notice noting that flights KQ765, KQ466, KQ221, KQ101, KQ625, KQ887, KQ732 & KQ417 had landed safely just prior to the blaze while five others, KQ117, KQ331, KQ311, KQ863 and KQ203 had been diverted to Mombasa. Other inbound flights have also been diverted to various other regional airports in Uganda and Tanzania.

All Photos Remain the property of their individual owners
© Jim Roberts ‏@nycjim
© BuzzFeed News ‏@BuzzFeedNews

© Kenya Red Cross @KenyaRedCross

An eyewitness reportedly heard two loud explosions prior to the fire spreading leading to speculation about a possible terrorist attack though these claims are largely unfounded at this time.

While the KAA has now been granted clearance for the use of Unit 3 for international departures and arrivals, the planned resumption of flights will only be outlined later.

[UPDATE] According to Eng Michael SM Kamau, the Cabinet Secretary, Transport and Infrastructure, partial operations at JKIA will commence this evening as follows:
  1. Cargo flights scheduled to depart today from JKIA will depart this evening. See this NOTAM.
  2. Departure and arrival of domestic flights will commence this evening.
  3. The airport emergency operations team is working round the clock to prepare Units 2 & 3 for arrival and departure of international flights as soon as possible.
  4. Investigations by security agencies have commenced and are ongoing. There is no reason to speculate on the causes of the fire.
The KAA has issued an update regarding the resumption of domestic and regional flights. Domestic operations are set to resume with flight KQ614 from Nairobi JKIA to Mombasa at 19h00L. An African Express Airlines flight XU551 inbound from Wajir at 18h10L was the first arriving flight to serve the airport since its closure. For Kenya Airways ops, see this posting.

South African Airways (SAA) has cancelled its flights between Johannesburg and Nairobi for today (07 August 2013).

Air Uganda says it will use leased ALS Kenya aircraft to serve its flights from Entebbe. They are, however, now using Nairobi Wilson Airport ALS Terminal.

Kenya will on Thursday begin preparing its small domestic terminal at JKIA to begin handling international flights, using tents to create extra space, Mr Kamau has stated. International flights, it is therefore assumed, will resume tomorrow.

[UPDATE] Following the partial opening of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenya Airways has announce a limited schedule of  international and domestic flights on Thursday, August 8, 2013.

For international departures, flights will depart from both Mombasa’s Moi International Airport and Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Priority will be given to passengers booked on tomorrow’s   flights with those who missed today’s flights being considered subject to seat availability.

The priority is as follows:
  1. All passengers to Kinshasa from Nairobi and Mombasa booked on flights for 7th and 8th August will be accommodated on the flight KQ554 planned for tomorrow originating Mombasa via Nairobi.
  2. All passengers holding confirmed tickets  to Amsterdam on KQ116 on Thursday 8th August originating from Nairobi will depart at 9.45 am. In addition, passengers originating  from Mombasa who were due to connect to Amsterdam on 7th and 8th  will be accommodated on this flight.
  3. All other passengers with confirmed tickets for 7th August will be advised on alternative arrangements in a separate brief.
  4. The delayed London flight of 7th August will operate tomorrow 8th August with an estimated departure of 10.45 am from Nairobi.
  5. Passengers holding confirmed tickets on KQ764 to Johannesburg and KQ510 Accra/Freetown  on 8th August will be accommodated on the flights below.
  6. Passengers holding confirmed tickets for flights to  Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Kigali, Bujumbura and Juba  on Thursday 8th August will progressively be accommodated on the available flights.
[UPDATE 11 AUGUST] Preliminary investigations suggest an electrical fault is the likely cause for the fire with indications that electrical wires which were left exposed after the demolition of duty free shops possibly having had a hand in starting the blaze. Terrorism, as of this posting, has been ruled out. US President Barack Obama has offered assistance to Kenya in the wake of the fire. Tents have meanwhile been erected to cope with operations.