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Blaze at Nairobi's airport, flights halted, cause unknown

Fire has shut down Nairobi's international airport, east Africa's aviation hub. Kenyan officials say its arrivals area has been "totally damaged." The cause is unknown. So far, there have been no reported casualties.

Firefighters fought a major blaze in the arrivals area of Nairobi's international airport on Wednesday. Kenyan civil aviation officials said flights to east Africa's busiest airport had been diverted to Mombasa as well as Uganda's Entebbe and Rwanda's Kigali airports.

A Kenyan civil aviation authority official quoted by Reuters said the fire broke out in the immigration section of Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta airport around 5 a.m., local time.

"No planes are departing or arriving – only emergency landings will be allowed," the official said.

Blaze 'massive'

Kenya's Interior Ministry in a social network message described the blaze as "massive." The fire was "contained" in the departures area but continued to burn in the arrivals section, it said.

Watch video 00:24

Fire closes Nairobi airport

Kenya's cabinet secretary for transport, Michael Kamau, said the blaze started in a "very central part of the airport." This had made access difficult for firefighters, he added.

"We have closed the airport indefinitely as we try to contain the fire," Kamau said.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded with their luggage outside the airport, which was cordoned off.

'Spread fast'

A British passenger, Martyn Collbeck, said fire services were initially slow to respond and the blaze "spread very fast."

"There were a couple of explosions which I think were a couple of gas canisters," Collbeck told the news agency Associated Press.

Kenyan media footage showed large flames and clouds of black smoke billowing from the main terminal, with dozens of fire trucks at the scene.

Kenya Airways said it was diverting flights to Kenya's port city of Mombasa. Transit passengers were being taken to hotels, it said.

Major hub for east Africa

Nairobi's airport serves as a regional hub for east Africa, handling many long-distance international flights, which enable passengers to connect to other countries across the region.

The fire came less than 48 hours after a fuel jet pump failure at Nairobi caused delays at the airport. That forced some flights to be rerouted to another airport in Kenya's coastal town of Mombasa, Entebbe International Airport in Uganda and Kigali International Airport in Rwanda.

ipj/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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