Fire ravages Kenya's international airport

Firefighters struggled today to contain a massive blaze that broke out early in the morning forcing the closure of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, according to witnesses and officials, Reuters reported.

According to a Kenya Civil Aviation Authority official who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters, the fire at the busiest airport in east Africa, started at around 5am (0200 GMT) in the immigration section of the departure lounge and spread to the international arrivals area.

He added no planes were permitted to depart or land, with provisions only for emergency landings to be allowed.

The incident comes less than 48 hours after a fuel jet pump failure led to huge delays at the airport. A number of flights had to be rerouted to the airport in the coastal town of Mombasa, Entebbe International Airport in Uganda and Kigali International Airport in Rwanda.

Though the fire is now said to have been contained according to reports, the response from emergency services had been delayed, the BBC reports.

In images of the scene, flames could be seen leaping from one of the main buildings.

The cause of the fire could not be immediately established and no casualties have been reported.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with many long-distance flight landings is the regional hub for East Africa.

According to earlier official statements, the airport had been closed indefinitely. Presidential spokesman, Manoah Esipisu however said domestic flights and international cargo flights would resume later tomorrow.

According to the cabinet secretary for transport, Michael Kamau, the fire as "very severe", and although it had been contained firefighters were still trying to put out the flames.

Dark smoke billowed across the sky after the fire which started at 04:30 local time, spread.

Passengers arriving on international flights reported that they heard explosions from the terminal building. Some passengers said there were no emergency directions on leaving and they just stood watching the fire. They added officials were not present to tell what to do.

Witnesses told BBC correspondent that it took one or two hours after the fire broke out, for fire engines to arrive. By the time the fire had engulfed the ageing arrivals hall.

The response of Kenya's police and fire units was far from adequate and Red Cross as also private security firms were roped in to supplement efforts according to the British multinational company G4S.