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Nairobi airport blaze: International flights gradually resume

Story highlights

  • Airport officials say they've set up tents to service the international area
  • The fire at the main Kenyan airport destroyed the international terminal
  • It forced the closure of the airport after ravaging the international arrivals section
  • No casualties were reported

International flights gradually resumed at Kenya's main airport Thursday after a blaze sent orange flames shooting in the air and brought East Africa's largest aviation hub to a standstill.

There were no reports of casualties in the Wednesday blaze at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

A day after the fire started, airport officials said they have set up tents to temporarily service the international area.

Several flights, including from London, Thailand and Uganda, landed at the airport as it slowly came back to life, airport authorities said.

Other international flights took off from the airport, including to South Sudan and South Africa, the Kenya Airports Authority tweeted. It also reported departures and arrivals of local flights.

The blaze destroyed large parts of the international terminal, leaving the arrivals section in charred ruins and strewn with debris. Chunks of corrugated metal hung from the roof after it caved in.

Officials gingerly walked through the ruins, ducking the mangled rubble.

Fire breaks out at Nairobi Airport

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    Fire breaks out at Nairobi Airport

Fire breaks out at Nairobi Airport 00:27
Fire temporarily closes Nairobi airport

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    Fire temporarily closes Nairobi airport

Fire temporarily closes Nairobi airport 04:23
The cost of Kenya's airport fire

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    The cost of Kenya's airport fire

The cost of Kenya's airport fire 03:57

No further details have emerged on the cause of the fire, which erupted at dawn Wednesday and raged for hours before it was contained.

"The cause of the fire is being investigated. There is no reason to speculate at this point. There was no loss of life," said Manoah Esipisu, a government spokesman.

Flights were rerouted to airports in Mombasa and Eldoret, and also to neighboring nations. The fire briefly rekindled early Thursday morning, but officials said it was put out.

More international services are expected to resume Thursday, said Michael Kamau, the nation's transportation and infrastructure secretary.

The blaze shut down East Africa's busiest airport and was a major blow to tourism, a major source of revenue for the nation.

The effects of the fire may also reverberate worldwide -- the nation distributes flowers and agricultural products to Europe thorough the airport. A third of all flowers in Europe come from Kenya, with a special emphasis on rose production.

The Kenya Flower Council advised growers to hold back the cutting of their products until airport operations are resolved.

Kenya is East Africa's largest economy and has made a big push to carve out its space in the global market. Tea, horticulture and tourism all bring in about $1 billion in revenue each year.

The airport also offers connections to Europe, the Middle East and other African nations, with about 16,000 passengers passing through daily, officials said.

After a visit to the scene Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta reassured travelers and the aviation industry that the nation is doing everything to ensure a return to normalcy, the government spokesman said.

Some witnesses said the fire began in the customs section, while others said it started in the duty-free area, parts of which had been demolished as part of airport construction last week.

U.S. President Barack Obama offered America's support to the nation after the fire, which occurred on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In a call to Kenyatta, Obama expressed condolences to the loved ones of those killed and wounded in the terror attacks, and highlighted his commitment to fighting terrorism, the White House said in a prepared statement.

In the 1998 near-simultaneous attacks, 224 people died and about 4,500 were wounded.

The fire also came days after the United States issued a worldwide travel alert and closed embassies and consulates in large areas of the Middle East and Africa, though Kenya and Tanzania were not among them.