NAIROBI, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday praised the Chinese contractor who rebuilt the country's biggest airport terminal in a space of three weeks after the fire gutted down the arrival section on Aug. 7.
Kenyatta who toured the facility said the Chinese contractor, China National Aero-technology International Engineering Corporation, has done a commendable job despite the challenges they have faced.
"We want to thank the Chinese contractor for building a temporary terminal at cost of 1 million dollars as a gift to the Kenyan people," Kenyatta said during a tour of the airport.
In August, fire broke out at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is the largest airport in the eastern and central Africa, and expressed satisfaction that operations at the airport have resumed to levels prior to the fire incident, a month ago. "With the kind of development we are seeing here, we are hopeful that we will be able to get the airport to be an air travel hub in Africa as a whole," Kenyatta said.
"We had an unfortunate incident one month ago but a few weeks down the road our Chinese colleagues have put in place a temporary facility that has enabled the facility to resume to full capacity, " he said.
The Chinese contractor managed to remodel the airport's garage area into a temporary arrival terminal at a cost of 1 million dollars without charging the government. The temporary terminal currently being used has greatly improved operations at the airport.
"We want to thank all the airlines for standing alongside Kenya during the difficult time," he said. The Kenyan leader added that the new Terminal Four is expected to be operational by the end of December.
"This will also coincide with the groundbreaking of the phase one of the airport expansion," he said. Kenyatta said that the long term goal is make Nairobi, Africa's air transport hub.
The Garage Facility at the new Terminal Four has been opened for arrivals and the tents that were previously used have been removed. Work on the new Terminal Four has been fast-tracked and it will be completed by December.
He said work on the new Greenfield project, a completely new terminal building at the airport, will start in the coming week and be completed within three years.
Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau said that China is a true friend of Kenya. "It stepped in at the right time to ensure that Kenya's aviation sector is not interrupted by the fire incident," Kamau said.
Mbugua said that the project has also enabled the airport to continue connecting Africa to the rest of the world.
China National Aero-technology International Engineering Corporation Managing Director Huang Hongyou said that his firm will also complete the construction of the phase one expansion project in three years.
"It will have a capacity of handling at least 20 million passengers annually," he said.
Davis Kungu, who used the airport, said that Kenya has handled the situation better than a lot of people expected. "It is now operating at full capacity," he said.
Rajiv Shah, who arrived at the airport from India, said that the temporary international terminal is offering satisfactory service. "I was impressed by the new facilities," Shah said.