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Viral photos do not show Kenyan telco Airtel Kenya offices on fire

IN SHORT: Photos of smoke appearing to billow from the headquarters of one of Kenya’s biggest telecoms companies had social media atwitter. But Airtel Kenya was quick to respond that the fire was next door, and contained, not in their building in Nairobi.

Photos doing the rounds on Facebook in Kenya show dark smoke billowing from behind the Parkside Towers, a building in the capital Nairobi that hosts the headquarters of one of Kenya’s biggest telecommunications companies, Airtel Kenya.

The building is along Mombasa Road, the main road connecting Nairobi with Kenya's largest port city, Mombasa.

The photos were posted on 5 March 2023 with the claim that they showed the telecoms company headquarters on fire.

“Sad. Airtel building along Mombasa Road is on fire. Sooo sad tutakuwa off bana watu wa Airtel,” one user posted.

The mix of English and Kiswahili in the last sentence translates as: “Those of us who use their services will be offline.”

Some of those who posted the photos ridiculed the company, claiming it had such “poor network coverage” that it could not even call the relevant authorities for assistance.

The photos were posted here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But was the Airtel Kenya headquarters on fire? We checked.


Fire from dumpsite

While replying to inquiries on Twitter, Airtel Kenya said there was no fire at the building. 

The company said, on their official Twitter account: “The fire was in the backyard of an adjacent building. Thankfully, it was contained. We would therefore wish to clarify to all our customers and members of the public that there was no fire incident at the Airtel Kenya headquarters and that all our operations continue as normal.”

Local media also reported on the day that the smoke was from a dumping site nearby and not from the company’s headquarters.

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