On the eve of the official inauguration of the new President, Retired Brig. Julius Maada Bio, when at least seven heads of state and a U.S delegation were expected in the country, the presidential lounge of the Freetown International Airport in Lungi was in flames, with thick smoke billowing out of the building.
As soon as the news spread, supporters of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) took to the social media accusing the opposition of trying to sabotage the inauguration. But it has been learnt that the fire was caused by the explosion of a plasma TV which had just been installed.
The fire was extinguished by personnel of National Fire Force stationed at the airport, but not until extensive damage had been done to the lounge where the foreign heads of state were to have been received.
A press release from the Sierra Leone Airport Authority (SLAA) stated the findings of a preliminary investigation launched into the cause of the fire.
Preliminary report - Report on fire incident that occurred at the Presidential Lounge, Freetown International Airport
Fire was noticed at 14:30 hours. Smoke was detected at the Presidential Lounge by Mr. Santigie Kamara, one of the caretakers. Alarm was raised and the Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (RFFS) was notified and they responded swiftly. The fire was put out around 1500 hours.
One arm chair, the TV decoder and the plasma TV in the Presidential Room/Office were completely burnt.
Preliminary investigation suggests that the fire emerged from the plasma TV set that was at the Presidential office at the lounge.
Upon preliminary investigation, in the morning hours an anomaly was detected with regards the same presidential room where the fire broke out.
A switch and the TV decoder were presumed to be faulty. This was reported to the electrical department of the SLAA by Mr. Unisa Kargbo, head supervisor of the Presidential Lounge. Technicians immediately responded and a new decoder was brought in.
The VIP Arrival Lounge is used to receive government invitees and other important delegates.
However, rehabilitation works at the Presidential Lounge commenced in the early hours to make it ready to receive guests.