A spectacular fire caused major damage Wednesday at the international airport in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the busiest in Africa, according to news reports and social media accounts. There were no reports of casualties, and the cause appeared to be undetermined.
The blaze broke out at 5 a.m. local time (7 p.m. Tuesday PDT) and gutted the arrivals building of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, according to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. The paper quoted the head of security for the Kenya Airports Authority, Eric Kiraithe, as saying: “By our own standards this is so big.”
The airport was closed and passengers evacuated, the BBC reported, adding that there were unconfirmed reports that the blaze had begun in the airport’s immigration offices.
The fire broke out on the 15th anniversary of the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, but there was no immediate indication that there was any link. That bombing, and the nearly simultaneous bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were the largest attacks to that point by Al Qaeda, and claimed 224 lives.
After Wednesday’s airport fire, the Associated Press quoted a British passenger, Martyn Collbeck, who had been scheduled to fly back to London on an early morning KLM flight. “When I arrived, there were one or two fire engines parked outside the international arrivals. It spread very fast,” said Collbeck. “There were a couple of explosions, which I think were a couple of gas canisters.”
Photos posted on Twitter suggested the scale of the blaze.
MORE: Passengers evacuated as crews work to contain massive fire at Nairobi airport pic.twitter.com/QgFl15LWNL https://t.co/gLKAYdWVi5 #Kenya— RT (@RT_com) August 7, 2013
BREAKING PIC: Appears to show huge fire that’s shut down international airport in Nairobi, Kenya @citizentvkenya pic.twitter.com/9o56NR0J8C— NewsBreaker (@NewsBreaker) August 7, 2013
Jomo Kenyatta is said to be the sixth busiest airport in Africa. It is named after Kenya’s first prime minister and president.