, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was expected to begin full operations by midnight on Thursday, as officials worked frantically to return the situation to normal following Wednesday’s fire incident.
Transport and Infrastructure Secretary Michael Kamau told a media briefing on Thursday afternoon that the airport was currently working at a 35 percent capacity and only a few flights from Kenya Airways had landed in the morning.
He said that the Presidential Pavilion would temporarily be converted to process international arrivals.
“As you can see, many passengers have been inconvenienced by this fire and we are trying as much as possible to make them comfortable. We have set up tents from where we are offering our services and we are surprised at the level of understanding that we have received from them,” he said.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), President Uhuru Kenyatta was here to assess the damage caused and after reflection directed that the VIP section of the Presidential Pavilion be used to cater for the huge number of passengers at the airport,” he stated.
Kamau added that investigations were still ongoing to determine the cause of the fire and reiterated the need to avoid speculation.
“Yesterday, I was asked when the airport will be opened again and I refused to answer you because I wanted to have all the facts first before making a statement. Let us all do so also with regard to the investigations that are ongoing,” he advised.
“I can tell you for a fact that there are different agencies even from out of the country involved in the probe and they are working tirelessly to come to the root cause of the fire.”
In the meantime, as the probe continues, both local and international passengers have described it as a tragedy which should be treated as such without any speculation.
“I understand that there is a real tragedy here so I am trying to be as patient as possible. A lot of people are inconvenienced and that is what happens when there is a major fire at an international airport,” said one passenger.
“I am travelling to Juba in South Sudan. I have been waiting since six o’clock in the morning,” he said.
Others waited patiently for their details to be sorted out at the immigrations tent set up outside Unit 3.
Wednesday’s blaze forced the cancellation or diversion of scores of flights at East Africa’s busiest transport hub.
Using the domestic terminal for passengers instead of the fire-damaged international lounge, flights from London and Bangkok safely landed early on Thursday.
Cargo and domestic flights out of the Kenyan capital had resumed on Wednesday evening.
Among airlines that were set to resume operations later was South African Airways. “South African Airways would like to notify our esteemed customers that we have resumed our flight operations into and out of JKIA with effect from August 9, 2013.
SAA will be operate two flights out of Nairobi on Friday in order to handle the backlog of passengers.
“SAA kindly requests its esteemed passengers to report at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi from 8:30am in order to be checked in at Units 2 and 3.
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