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Malawi - In South Africa, potholes disrupt road traffic; in Malawi, air traffic. Chileka International Airport in the Malawi commercial capital, Blantyre, has been closed to airlines because its main runway is riddled with potholes, the Department of Civil Aviation has announced.
“We have alerted all airlines that there will be restricted landing at the airport because of major repair works on the main runway,” Transport Minister Ulemu Chilapondwa said yesterday.
He said two potholes developed on the main runway and the department hired a contractor to fill them.
“But what we discovered is that because of the consistent heavy rains, there is major damage underneath - so much, that once one pothole is filled, another develops immediately,” Chilapondwa said.
The minister said no big airplanes, like Boeing 737s or 747s, could land at the airport.
Ethiopian Airways and Malawian Airlines flights, scheduled to land at the airport on Sunday, were rerouted to the capital, Lilongwe.
Hundreds of passengers bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Johannesburg were left stranded.
They were told to find their way to Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe for their connecting flights.
Sources at the airport said that a contractor hired to fill two potholes had left the job halfway because the Department of Civil Aviation could not pay him.
“He has left gaping holes that makes it unsafe for planes to land,” he said.
The closure is a major blow to the newly-launched Malawi Airlines, which was just finding its feet after Air Malawi failed.