An overnight fire at a four-story hostel in New Zealand’s capital has killed at least six people, the prime minister said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told the AM morning news program that 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 don’t yet have an exact count of the number dead, although they believe it’s fewer than 10 people.
Emergency services were called to the Loafers Lodge hostel about 12:30 a.m.
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,” Pyatt told reporters.
“This is our worst nightmare,” 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.
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said it was helping about 50 people who had escaped the fire and were now at an emergency center 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 pajamas 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, MacLean said. He didn’t 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.