August is termed as an unlucky month for Kenya; most unfortunate things have always happened in the month of August. Some of these include; the first president of Kenya died on 23rd August 1978, and the August 7 1997 Nairobi bomb blast saw over 200 Kenyans lose their lives. This year has not been any different. Last week, Wednesday morning, as the survivors and relatives of the 1997 bomb blast were preparing to have a memorial service, the country woke up to yet another misfortune: the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was on fire!
This was indeed bad news to not only Kenya but also East Africa. The fire fighters had a rough time fighting the fire but after some hours, it was contained. It took the effort of fire fighters from the Nairobi City Council, Red Cross, Kenya police and Kenya Defense Force (KDF) to contain the fire. Although no one was injured in the mysterious fire whose cause is yet to be established, JKIA and investors suffered immensely with over KES 300 million (Euros 3 million) worth of loss. Businesses in and around the airport were closed due to the fire, and flights cancelled. Kenya Airways, the national carrier, spent millions of Kenya shillings in accommodation of the inconvenienced passengers from all the airline’s destinations. Other losses came in terms of lost revenue as the airport which normally serves over 16,000 passengers a day was closed – and this being a high peak season, the loss incurred was high. Exporters are also weighing their losses as they were also affected.
After a day long closure of the airport citing the burning of the international arrival and departure area, the airport was up and running, although at first, the Airport authorities were forced to handle international passengers at the local terminals. A section of the international departure unit is expected to start operations in the next couple of days. Kenya Airways has however by today, resumed 90% of its capacity with the remaining 10% expected to be restored in the next couple of days. Other temporary terminals have also been created to enable smooth running of the airport and to help clear the backlog. Many well wishers, among them the United States of America, have come forth to aid in the reconstruction of the damaged sections as others from around the region wish JKIA a quick recovery since they are just as affected as Kenya is. The Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) has put up tents, hence some of the work is being done from the tent offices as renovations are under way.
The situation is very serious, but Kenyans – being optimistic as they always are – have come up with ways to ease the tension as well as encourage each other by use of social media. Some used humor just to make the atmosphere light as well as to inform others on the progress. For instance, a Facebook user had her status read “its too cold, am off to the airport!” (it’s Winter in Kenya). Another posted “Whats cooking at JKIA?”. Below are more posts from Twitter:
It is going to be hard rebuilding the sections burned of the JKIA; this is of course a set back for Kenya as resources will be used for the reconstruction. Kenyans, however, are optimistic that things will be better in the future. Investigations on the cause of the fire are still underway and the President of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, has ruled out the incident being a terror attack.