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Friday, August 9, 2013
Kenya: The First responders to Kenya airport fire, looted banks, officials say
First responders to Kenya airport fire
looted banks, officials say
NAIROBI, Kenya – Officials in Kenya investigating the massive airport fire
that gutted the arrival hall at Nairobi’s main airport said Thursday that first
responders looted electronics, a bank and an ATM during and after the
The officials said first responders stole electronics and money from an
ATM. Another official said that police guarding the site overnight attempted to
a take a safe from a bank in the burned-out arrivals hall, which also houses
several foreign currency exchange shops.
All four officials who described the alleged looting are close to the
investigation. They insisted on anonymity because they weren’t authorized to
share the information before the investigation is complete.
The fire-fighting response to Wednesday’s inferno was criticized as slow
and inadequate, but the officials could not definitely say the looting was
carried out by firefighters. One official said there was now behind-the-scenes
finger pointing taking place between the police, fire department and army.
Another official said specialized police units had attempted to steal the safe
The criminal investigations policeman for the airport, Joseph Ngisa, said
he hasn’t received formal complaints of theft and that police are waiting for
affected institutions to report what they lost in the fire.
All public servants in Kenya, including police, firefighters and soldiers,
are poorly paid and frequently accused of corruption. Police officers who guard
the entrance to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport are well known in Nairobi
for demanding bribes from taxi drivers and other vehicles with Kenyan
International flights, meanwhile, resumed Thursday as officials improvised
immigration and luggage routines.
Kenyan officials, assisted by members of the FBI, investigated the cause of
the fire. One of the security officials who spoke to AP said the investigation
had ruled out terrorism and was now trying to determine if the fire was
intentional or accidental.
Michael Kamau, the cabinet secretary for transport and infrastructure, said
Kenyan officials were receiving assistance from international agencies “because
we intend to carry out a full investigation on what happened yesterday.” One of
the officials who spoke to AP confirmed that members of the FBI were
Kamau said the design of the airport — constructed in the mid-1970s — made
it challenging for firefighters to access certain areas with water hoses. Kamau
said he was “satisfied” by the response of firefighters from private companies
but did not mention the airport firefighters, who responded slowly and whose
equipment wasn’t fully functioning.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is East Africa’s largest aviation hub,
and the fire disrupted air travel across the continent as the airport canceled
all international flights Wednesday. Many inbound flights were diverted to
Tanzania and the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa. Domestic flights were being
operated from the airport’s cargo terminal.
Firefighters were desperately short of equipment Wednesday. The airport has
fire trucks but some were not filled with water and personnel couldn’t be found
to drive others. At one point while battling the blaze men in government
uniforms lined up to pass buckets of water to fight the fire.
No serious injuries were reported.
President Barack Obama called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to offer U.S.
support. The fire broke out on the 15th anniversary of U.S. Embassy bombings in
Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in total, mostly Kenyans, but also a
Nairobi is the capital
of East Africa’s largest economy, but public-sector services such as police and
fire departments are hobbled by small budgets, corrupt money managers and
outdated equipment or an absence of equipment. -Associated