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Inferno roars through East Africa's largest airport

Published August 7, 2013 7:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Nairobi, Kenya • A small fire at Kenya's main airport swelled into a roaring inferno Wednesday that destroyed part of East Africa's largest aviation hub and hampered air travel across the continent.

Firefighters were desperately short of equipment in an area where the county government apparently lacks a single working fire engine. Crews needed hours to get the flames under control and at one point resorted to a line of officers passing water buckets.

The early morning blaze gutted the arrival hall, forcing authorities to close the entire airport and airlines to cancel dozens of flights. No serious injuries were reported.

The fire broke out on the 15th anniversary of the bombings by al-Qaida of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, in neighboring Tanzania. No terror connection to the fire was immediately evident, but the blaze revived long-standing safety concerns about Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

A statement from Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta said the cause of the fire was being investigated and that "there is no reason to speculate at this point."

Authorities last week shut down several duty-free shops at the airport, and some Kenyan media reports speculated that disgruntled parties from the forced closings may have had motive to carry out an arson attack. No government official has made such an accusation.

No U.S. carriers fly direct to Nairobi.