NAIROBI (AFP) – International flights landed at Nairobi airport Thursday, the first since a huge fire gutted the arrivals terminal, causing widespread chaos and delays.
Wednesday’s blaze forced the cancellation or diversion of scores of flights at east Africa’s biggest transport hub.
Using the domestic terminal for passengers instead of the fire-damaged international hall, flights from London and Bangkok safely landed early Thursday, said Eric Kiraithe, head of security at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
A map locating the Kenyan capital of Nairobi where a massive fire has shut down the international airport
Officials were waiting for an accident investigations report into the blaze and the extent of the damage caused to get “a clearer indication” of when normal operations might resume, government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said.
However, Kenya’s media were united in criticizing the response to the fire as painfully slow, and warned the airport would need major building work until it could be returned back to normal.
Cargo and domestic flights out of the Kenyan capitol had resumed on Wednesday evening.
However, it was not clear when airlines other than the national carrier Kenya Airways would also land at Nairobi.
“We will have things up and running within days,” said Kariuki.
Kiraithe told AFP the airport had received two flights from London and Bangkok, and was currently checking in passengers flying to other destinations including Zanzibar, Johannesburg and Paris.
Some of those passengers will fly first to Kenya’s second city Mombasa before taking connecting international flights, but others are expected to leave directly for their destination from Nairobi, he added.
“We are confident we will process other flights in the course of the day, although we are not fully operational,” Kiraithe said.
The Standard newspaper accused the emergency services of being caught unprepared and calling the delay in tackling the blaze “inexcusable”.
The Star warned the fire may cause a “lack of trust and confidence” in the future among passengers.
“From preliminary assessments, it will take a complete rebuilding of critical areas of the airport,” the Daily Nation added, warning it would take “a pretty long time”.