Air travellers and other airport users yesterday scampered for safety when fire engulfed the major administrative building of the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, Imo State, and consequently paralysed flight operations.
Sighting the pall of smoke rising into the air, people began to run out of the terminal and other buildings at the airport.
Motorists who were coming to the airport made quick U-turn while those already at the premises quickly reversed for safety.
The thick smoke rose and painted the skyline dark, as it spread to other buildings due to the delay before attempt was made to put out the fire.
According to eye-witness account, the only fire vehicle at the airport responded slowly to the emergency, and by the time the fire was put out, it had raised the administrative block, where aero medical, airline offices and offices of some staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are housed.
The fire also damaged parts of the VIP lounge, the arrival and departure areas of the terminal.
According to the source, “The fire was so intense that it was difficult for fire fighters to access the terminal, so they had to break the window glasses in order to get inside the facility.”
Amuwo Parrot also learnt that the delay in putting out the fire caused its spread and made it difficult to extinguish.
However, FAAN in a statement signed by its General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said: “FAAN wishes to inform passengers and the public that there was a fire incident that affected some parts of the terminal building of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Owerri at about 1400 hours today (yesterday).
“The fire was however curtailed swiftly by officers of the Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Services Department of FAAN. There was no casualty and normal operations have since resumed at the airport. The Authority has commenced preliminary investigations into the cause of the incident.”