As you may know I've been in Kenya this week, speaking at Joomla!Day Kenya and carrying out some market research. Today was my last day, so this morning when I went to check out of our apartment I was rather surprised when the reception team told me I wouldn't be flying anywhere! There had been a massive fire at the main airport in Nairobi which started at 5am - at first I thought they were pulling my leg, but then I saw the photos ... it really is quite a miracle that nobody was hurt - but it looks like the majority of the airport has been destroyed.
One thing that I have been totally impressed by is the way in which the Kenyan Government has co-ordinated communicating about the incident.
The first message was broadcast on their Twitter account in the early hours of the morning alerting some of the main news agencies in the area:
Further updates have been using the hashtag #JKIAFire - providing people with a way of monitoring the situation and ensuring that people can find correct and up to date information. Updates are coming regularly, but not in a panicked way - the communication has been calm, measured, and appropriate. Many people are commenting on how professionally the Interior Ministry are using Twitter to keep people updated:
UPDATE: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi closed all flights diverted to Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and Entebbe #JKIAFire— Interior Ministry (@InteriorKE) August 7, 2013
An information center for departing passengers is being set up at the Domestic Terminals. #JKIAFire— Interior Ministry (@InteriorKE) August 7, 2013
And ever since, there have been constant updates from the Interior Ministry, keeping people advised and giving people information about where to go if they have been stranded, responding to questions, helping people find out if their flights have been cancelled and more. They are also re-tweeting people who have posted useful information or praise for the teams who are fighting the fire.
News agencies are being updated via Twitter and people are being informed about the real situation on the ground. As one of those 'stranded passengers' potentially - I am reassured that things are being handled in a calm way, and service will be restored as soon as they possibly can - but most importantly, I don't feel frightened, panicked or concerned about what is happening. Knowing that there is a source of information where I can go to find official updates is reassuring, and reassurance is most definitely what is needed at times like this.
It is great to see governments in developing countries reaching out via social media, and using it in a disaster to maintain calm and ensure communication of key information. It's a shame that Emirates aren't using social media to keep their customers informed .. instead I had to go through a 10 minute hold period on their phone lines to get the information I needed about the status of my flight (the end result of which was I have to call them back at 4pm!)
So, apologies to people who I may have meetings with - I might be a little late!