The blaze at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi sent a plume of black smoke that was visible from the Kenyan capital a few miles away after a huge fire broke out and raged for four hours, 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.
The Kenyan authorities ordered the temporary closing on Wednesday of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after the fire destruction.
The blaze spread to the international arrivals area, bringing East Africa’s busiest airport to a standstill and turning parts of it into charred ruins.
By mid-afternoon, Michael Kamau, a senior government transport official, told reporters that the airport had been partially reopened for domestic and cargo flights, but international traffic was still suspended.
Airport authorities planned to convert another part of the facility to a temporary terminal for international flights, he said.
The airport handles 16,000 passengers a day, officials said, and is a vital link for Kenya’s cut flower export business — an important source of foreign currency along with the country’s tourism trade on beaches and in game reserves, and the exportation of tea.
The fire started at around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, when many flights to and from Europe and elsewhere were scheduled.
Many incoming flights were diverted to the Indian Ocean coastal city of Mombasa.
News reports said some emergency vehicles heading for the blaze got bogged down in rush-hour traffic on the airport road. (Source: New York Times)