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Massive Flames Engulf Nairobi's Airport

Sections of Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were engulfed in flames earlier today. The fire started around 5 a.m. and continued for hours, as passengers were evacuated to nearby sidewalks outside the airport with their luggage. No casualties have been reported so far.

Much of the international arrivals area was gutted and charred by the time the burning had stopped five hours later. Many incoming flights were diverted to Mombasa's airport 300 miles away.

Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. View Larger Map

By mid-afternoon, the airport had been partially reopened for domestic and cargo flights. International routes are still suspended and airport officials say they will convert another part of JKIA into a temporary terminal.
 

Two days earlier, an airlock in the main pipeline that delivers jet fuel to the airport caused all inbound flights to be diverted to other airfields. The problem had been fixed in time for the following morning's flights.

Video report from the scene ealrier today via the Telegraph

August 7 is the anniversary of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania but Kenya's antiterror police boss, Boniface Mwankiki told the Associated Press earlier today that he wanted to wait for the fire to be extinguished before making any judgement on whether or not the fire was started by terrorists. 

East Africa's busiest airport, JKIA handles 16,000 passengers a day and serves a vital role for the country's flower and tea exports as well as its tourism industry.

Below, images from the airport earlier today via Reuters:

Fire fighters struggle to put out a fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis)

Fire fighters walk amid debris from a fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis) 

Fire fighters struggle to put out a fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis) 

Members of the public stand in front of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as it goes up in flames, in Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Fire fighters struggle to put out a fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis)

Stranded passengers and onlookers gather after a fire disrupted all operations at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis)

Stranded passengers and onlookers crowd together after a fire disrupted all operations at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis) 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) is shown the damages from a fire that broke out in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer) 

Police officers stand guard in front of onlookers as Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is engulfed in flames, in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Kenya Airways aircrafts stay grounded after a huge fire left all flights suspended at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as soldiers patrols the grounds, in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Noor Khamis)

Planes are grounded as smoke rises from the burning Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Smoke rises from a distance after a fire broke out at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Kenya's capital Nairobi August 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer) 

Keywords: Nairobi, Kenya, Africa, Fire, Airports

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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