At least six people were killed after a hostel fire ravaged the nation’s capital overnight, forcing others to leave the four-story structure in their pajamas in what a fire chief described as his “worst nightmare.”
According to Bruce Stubbs, the incident controller for Fire and Emergency New Zealand, six victims were discovered, but not all portions of the building had been inspected because the roof on the top level had collapsed, sending down rubble and making the area dangerous.
Officials said that 52 individuals had survived the building but were still looking for more.
Tala Sili, a tenant of Loafers Lodge, told news organization RNZ that the corridor was completely dark when he opened his door after seeing smoke coming through under it.
“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,” Sili recalled.
He claimed to have landed on a roof two levels down.
“It was just scary, terrifying, but I knew I had to jump out the window or just burn inside the building,” Sili told RNZ. He said paramedics saved him from the roof and treated him for a sprained ankle.
People of all ages may stay at The Loafers Lodge, which provides simple, inexpensive rooms with communal kitchens, living areas, and laundry facilities. Some were sent there by government organizations and were seen as vulnerable because they lacked resources or support systems.
The hostel contains 92 rooms, and one side is covered in billboards.
The building was in an industrial location close to Wellington Regional Hospital, and dark smoke streaks were running up the outer walls on the top story.
At around 12:30 a.m., firefighters were dispatched to the hostel. According to emergency personnel, the structure lacked fire sprinklers, which Prime Minister Chris Hipkins claimed were unnecessary under New Zealand’s building code for older systems that would need retrofitting.
Although the source of the fire is still unknown, police said they don’t think it was started on purpose.
After receiving building access from the fire department on Wednesday, police inspector Dion Bennett said the intention was to launch a complete scene investigation.
Many initially believed it was another false alarm since residents told reporters that fire alarms frequently went off in the building, potentially due to people smoking or too sensitive smoke detectors.
According to Hipkins, it might take some time for authorities to confirm the death toll. Police stated that although they did not have a precise count, they thought there were fewer than ten fatalities.
“It’s a tragedy. The situation is horrible; the prime minister told reporters. There will undoubtedly be several inquiries into what occurred and why it occurred in due time. However, dealing with the situation must be the priority for now.
According to health officials, two people in the building were treated at hospitals, and both had stable conditions. Six patients departed before receiving treatment, while three others were treated and released.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s Wellington district manager, Nick Pyatt, expressed his condolences to both the families of the deceased and the rescue teams.
At least six people were killed in a fire at a hostel in New Zealand. The blaze broke out on the top floor of Loafers Lodge in the Wellington neighborhood of Newtown just after midnight https://t.co/D5gqPuoRfu pic.twitter.com/BK5Qaeo3sy
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 16, 2023