Huge fire closes Kenya's Nairobi international airport

Huge fire closes Kenya's Nairobi international airport

NAIROBI - Agence France-Presse
Huge fire closes Kenyas Nairobi international airport

A blaze rages the International arrivals hall at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. AP Photo/Sayyid Azim

A "massive" fire shut down Nairobi's international airport Wednesday with flights diverted to regional cities, officials said, as firefighters struggled to put out the blaze in east Africa's most important transport hub.

"There is a serious fire at JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport), but we are doing everything possible to avert a crisis," said Mutea Iringo, a senior official at the interior and national coordination ministry.

Firefighters were tackling the blaze but were "running dangerously low on water", the interior ministry said in an appeal to traffic to give way to trucks ferrying water to the airport.

"Apart from emergency landings, all flights into and out of JKIA have been cancelled ... (the) airport has been shut down," added Iringo.

The fire broke out shortly before dawn.

There were no initial reports of casualties, but Iringo said the fire was "massive", adding that the arrivals and immigration sections were "totally damaged".

Flights were being diverted to other airports, including the port city of Mombasa, the interior ministry added.

Images on Kenyan media showed flames rising high in the sky and billowing clouds of black smoke out of the main arrivals and departures terminal, with dozens of police and fire trucks at the scene.

The airport serves as a regional hub for east Africa, with many long-distance international flights landing there to connect to countries across the region.

Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre, in an update given at 0500GMT, said that while the blaze had been brought under control in the international departures areas, fire was still burning at the arrivals terminal.

All roads around the airport had been closed except to emergency traffic, it added.

"This is a major crisis," said senior transport ministry official Michael Kamau.

The blaze comes two days after aircraft were delayed for several hours after the failure of a fuel hydrant needed for refuelling the planes.