Nairobi Airport Fire A Disaster For Kenya’s Export Business

Nairobi Airport Fire A Disaster For Kenya’s Export Business

An early morning fire that stranded thousands of passengers at Kenya’s main airport today had exporters of perishable produce, mainly flowers, fearing for their export-driven business, according to a ChicagoTribune report.

The main airport partially re-opened later in the day for domestic and cargo flights, USAToday reported.

Kenyan authorities investigating the fire said it was too early to tell what caused the blaze. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the fire, which started in the arrivals and immigration area. Business travelers and tourists were diverted to other airports.

Flowers are a leading source of foreign exchange for Kenya alongside tea and tourism.

“This is disastrous,” Jane Ngige, CEO of exporters association Kenya Flower Council, told Reuters in the ChicagoTribune report.

Shares in Kenya Airways, which uses the airport as its main hub, fell 2 percent. Foreign carriers using the terminal include Emirates, British Airways, Qatar, KLM, Turkish Airways, South African Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.

Kenyan authorities said domestic flights and international cargo flights would resume later today. Plans for international flights would be announced later.

“Right now we’ve allowed the cargo to come in. Fruits, flower are coming in and are being processed. We hope we will be able to resume domestic flights,” said Michael Kamau, cabinet secretary for transportation.

The fire was a blow to Kenya at the start of the busiest part of tourism season, a key sector for the Kenyan economy and an important source of foreign currency earnings, the report said.

Tourists to the Masai Mara Game Reserve had canceled their bookings, tour operators said.