* BA, Kenya Airways cancel Freetown flights
* Only functioning fire engine has broken down
* No date given for resumption
FREETOWN, March 9 International airlines have
cancelled flights to and from Sierra Leone after a U.N. aviation
regulator discovered that the only functioning fire engine at
its main airport had broken down, an airport official and
airline staff said on Sunday.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
downgraded Freetown airport after it made the discovery during a
spot check, they said.
The top two international carriers to the West African
country - British Airways and Kenya Airways
- cancelled flights indefinitely from Saturday as a result,
leaving more than 100 passengers stranded.
"We are working very hard to fix the faulty gearbox system
of the fire engine and to add to the fleet," general manager of
the Sierra Leone Airports Authority, John Sesay, told Reuters.
The ICAO could not immediately be reached for comment.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the West African
country this 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.