CORRECTED-Sierra Leone international flights resume after safety halt

Tue Mar 11, 2014 3:49pm EDT

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(Corrects to show that BA flight arrived from London, not Liberia)

FREETOWN, March 11 (Reuters) - British Airways and Kenya Airways said on Tuesday they have resumed flights to and from Sierra Leone after its main international airport replaced its broken fire engine.

The top two carriers to the West African country suspended service this weekend after airport sources said that a U.N. aviation regulator had downgraded the Freetown airport when its only fire engine broke down.

"The issues that led to the cancellation have been sorted out," said Robert Kapruto, country manager of Kenya Airways, adding that a flight was scheduled for Tuesday.

A British Airways flight from London landed in Sierra Leone on Tuesday morning.

A national fire engine has been certified fit to serve as an aviation vehicle to provide a back-up service while the regular engine is fixed, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Leone Airports Authority, Betty Bassie, said.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation said in an email to Reuters that Sierra Leone had recently undergone a safety audit, without commenting on the results.

It was not immediately clear if the Freetown airport's safety rating had been revised higher since the weekend.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the West African country last week to oversee the closure of its peacekeeping mission there following an 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.

Its tourism industry is only slowly recovering but thousands of foreign workers are employed in Sierra Leone in the gold and diamond mining sectors. (Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Daniel Flynn/Mark Heinrich)

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