(eTN) – A regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam has, through third parties, passed his own views and that of several of his colleagues, even from other airlines, on the airport closure of Dar’s Julius Nyerere International Airport. He said he had to opt to use alternate routes, passing this information as:
“I believe communications are monitored. This explosion is very serious and government takes not kindly to anyone found talking about it or going to the press with any information or details. They seem to think it is all about state security here. That is why our newspapers give little information, but we know, of course, why that is so and who is behind it. Anyway, the good news is that the airport is now open again and operating but there are still many passengers waiting for their international flight departures, and domestic flights also have a backlog of passengers waiting to fly to their destinations within Tanzania.”
A series of explosions at a nearby army base, also used as a major ammunition storage, rocked Dar es Salaam on Wednesday night, causing widespread destruction on the army base itself and across a wide perimeter around the base to businesses, residential housing, and leading even to the closure of the international airport.
Flights enroute to Dar were diverted, as far as possible to Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha, or else told to land while still airborne at a chosen diversion airport. All international, regional, and domestic flights in and out of Dar es Salaam were cancelled during the period of closure, leaving passengers stranded, angry, upset, and without much if any information on the timeframe of their cancelled departures. Many were said to be further inconvenienced when businesses at the airport closed leaving them literally on their own as phone lines to the airlines or airport information service were either jammed or not answered at all.
The quoted aviation source in Dar had this to say: “We were told of a shutdown of the airport by phone from colleagues on duty at the airport. We heard the explosions across the city, and first, one would have thought of a big accident or other incidents involving the airport itself. Then gradually news filtered through [that] it was the same army base which already exploded in April 2009, and we could not believe it. I got in touch with other colleagues, and we are all very upset that government has failed to implement any safety measures at all and allowing such a thing to happen a second time.
“Imagine, aircraft, the airport building could have been hit by rockets causing big loss of life and aircraft. Where in the world does an army store a lot of bombs, rockets, mines, and ammunition so close to the main international airport and not ensure total safety? My colleagues and I are very upset, and considering how we are often treated by airport security when going to our place of work, it is obvious that the army does not take safety and security of the people and assets they are supposed to protect equally seriously.
“This government talks about tourism and trade relations, but they cannot even keep our country’s main airport secure. If this had led to loss of life at the airport, the tourism sector would be very hard hit, because everyone would say ‘you can’t go there, it is not safe.’ Our managers here will not talk either to the press; they are mostly expatriates and know how to keep silent over such issues unless they want to be sent home. It is pathetic, even the loss of life and the number of those injured are kept like a state secret. At least now the airport is open again, but a friend of mine said he should really be given a flak jacket and steel helmet with his uniform to be safe.”
As if the country’s tourism industry needed such negative publicity following the storm of outrage over the past few months about the planned highway across the Serengeti’s migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras, the controversy over the possible construction of a hotel in the “Stone Town” of Zanzibar, and the likely revival of plans to build a hydroelectric dam along the Rufiji River’s Stieglers Gorge – besides the contentious issues of poaching, ivory smuggling, and other related stories told here in past months.
As of this writing, at least 20 have been reported dead and 145 injured.