At least six people killed in fire at New Zealand hostel, prime minister says

Death toll expected to rise after blaze at four-storey building in Wellington

A fire at a four-storey hostel in New Zealand’s capital Wellington on Monday night has killed at least six people, the country’s prime minister said, with a local fire chief labelling it his “worst nightmare”.

Prime minister Chris Hipkins told the AM morning news programme he understands that six people have been confirmed dead in the fire in Wellington, and that there are likely to be more.

Police said they do not yet have an exact count of the number dead, although they believe it is fewer than 10 people.

Emergency services were called to the Loafers Lodge hostel at about 12.30am local time.


Wellington Fire and Emergency district manager Nick Pyatt said 52 people have been accounted for, but that a number still remained unaccounted for.

“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 told reporters.

“This is our worst nightmare,” Mr Pyatt said. “It doesn’t get worse than this.”

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

Loafers Lodge resident Tala Sili told news outlet Radio New Zealand (RNZ) that he saw smoke pouring through under his door and opened it to find the hallway pitch black.

“I was on the top floor and I couldn’t go through the hallway because there was just too much smoke, so I jumped out the window,” Mr Sili said.

He said he then fell onto a roof two floors below.

“It was just scary, it was really scary, but I knew I had to jump out the window or just burn inside the building,” he added.

He said he was rescued from the roof by paramedics and treated for a sprained ankle.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said it was helping about 50 people who had escaped the fire and were now at an emergency centre the council had set up at a local running track that had showers and other facilities.

He said there were a number of elderly people it was helping who had escaped with only the pyjamas they were wearing. “A lot are clearly shaken and bewildered about what happened,” he said.

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.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese told reporters he had spoken with Mr Hipkins and offered Australian assistance.

“This is a dreadful human tragedy,” Mr Albanese said. “I expressed my condolences on behalf of Australia to our friends in New Zealand at this very difficult time.” - AP