Kenya airports body chief removed after blaze

Official replaced by general manager a week after a major fire destroyed arrivals hall of the country’s largest airport.

The fire created chaos and confusion with first responders in the capital Nairobi looting electronics [AFP]
The fire created chaos and confusion with first responders in the capital Nairobi looting electronics [AFP]

The contract of the managing director of the Kenya Airports Authority will end in October, the authority’s board has announced, a week after a devastating fire destroyed a large section of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), east Africa’s largest.

In a statement released on Thursday, the KAA board said Stephen Gichuki would “proceed on his terminal leave in accordance with the state corporations and regulations provisions”.

JKIA is based in the capital Nairobi and is one of eight airports run by the KAA. The authority also manages two airstrips.

The statement, published on KAA’s website, did not say Gichuki was being sent on leave in connection with the fire but it said the authority had decided to “follow due process” in hiring a new managing director.

It added that the position would be advertised in the local media.

Lucy Mbugua, who has been KAA’s general manager for marketing and business development, was named managing director in acting capacity, the statement said.

A huge fire engulfed JKIA’s arrival hall on August 3, destroying the arrivals hall and causing the cancellation of dozens of flights.

The airport reopened for domestic and cargo flights on the day the fire broke out, but only resumed international flights a day later after firefighters put out the blaze, which began as a small fire before it swelled into an inferno.

Terrorism ruled out 

Although the authorities have ruled out terrorism, they have enlisted the services of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to help establish the real cause of the blaze, according to Kenyan media.

The fire created chaos and confusion, with the first responders looting electronic items and banks during and after the blaze.

Officials told the AP news agency that people stole money from an ATM at the airport.

Another official said that police guarding the site attempted to a take a safe from a bank in the burned-out arrivals hall, which also houses several foreign-currency exchanges.

All four officials who described the alleged looting are close to the investigation, the AP said.

The KAA’s statement noted that JKIA was a critical facility and that the authority would support management and the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure to ensure that passengers “are restored to a normal level of comfort in the shortest time possible”.

It said arrangements were being made to ensure that passengers were moved out of the tent lounges within three weeks. Some of the arrangements include turning the JKIA parking garage into a passengers arrival hall.

Source: Al Jazeera

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