Fire at New Zealand hostel that left at least six dead treated as suspicious

17 May 2023, 05:20

At least six have died from the fire
At least six have died from the fire. Picture: Alamy/Social media
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A fire at a hostel in New Zealand that left at least six people dead is being treated by authorities as suspicious.

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The blaze broke out on the top floor of the Loafer Lodge in the Wellington neighbourhood of Newtown just after midnight local time on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told breakfast television show AM that six were dead and police have said that they expect the death toll will be fewer than 10.

Inspector Dion Bennett said: "Alongside the scene examination, officers will be working to locate and recover those who lost their lives in the fire.

"We know there are many people waiting for news of family and friends - including the residents who escaped the fire and are keenly waiting for news of their fellow tenants.

"I again want to provide the reassurance that we have a large number of officers working on this investigation, with the aim of providing them the answers they need as quickly as possible."

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The fire broke out just after 12am local time
The fire broke out just after 12am local time. Picture: Wellington City Council

Wellington Fire and Emergency District Manager Nick Pyatt said 52 people were rescued, though many lost all of their belongings.

"I can sadly report that this will be a multi-fatality incident. Our thoughts at this time are with the families of those who have perished and with our crews who valiantly rescued those (they could) and attempted to rescue those that they couldn't," Mr Pyatt said.

"This is our worst nightmare," Pyatt added. "It doesn't get worse than this."

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Fire trucks are seen near the site where a fire broke out in downtown Wellington
Fire trucks are seen near the site where a fire broke out in downtown Wellington. Picture: Alamy

The hostel provided a combination of short-term and long-term rentals, Mr MacLean said.

He did not have all the details, he said, but he believed it was used by various government agencies to provide emergency accommodation.

Loafers Lodge advertises itself as an affordable place for people to stay while they are in the capital, whether on business or needing to visit the nearby Wellington Hospital.

It has 92 rooms and promotes them as being available long term.

Firefighters battle a fire at the site where a fire broke out in downtown Wellington
Firefighters battle a fire at the site where a fire broke out in downtown Wellington. Picture: Alamy

Wellington City Council said previously: "We're aware that the fire in Newtown has taken a tragic turn this morning and that the news that there have been fatalities is extremely distressing.

"Council staff are working closely with emergency services and other agencies to help the people who have escaped the fire this morning - that includes finding them clothing and helping to arrange accommodation."

Police said the cause of the fire remained unexplained, and they would be investigating alongside fire and emergency officials.

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