At least 6 dead in New Zealand hotel fire

At least six people were killed in a massive fire on Tuesday at a four-storey hotel in the center of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington.

Huge flames and thick smoke billowed from the top floor of the 92-room Hotel Loafers Lodge in central Wellington overnight from Monday to Tuesday.

“It’s an absolute tragedy,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who said six deaths had been confirmed. But it looks like there may be more.

Wellington Mayor Tori Whanau said she feared more than six casualties.

Firefighters rescued 52 people. The deputy commander of the National Fire Services told Radio New Zealand (RNZ) and relief, Brendan Nally, that they used a long ladder to rescue residents trapped on the roof, some “from an area that was directly above the flames”. “.

“Eleven people are still missing, but this number should drop “slightly”, he then told the press.

Mr Neely said there were no sprinklers in the dorm and the fire alarm did not go off on its own.

– “I had to jump” –

Tala Sili, one of the residents, said smoke was coming out from under her door before she decided to jump to the roof two floors below.

“I was on the top floor and couldn’t go through the hallway because there was too much smoke, so I had to jump through the window,” he told RNZ.

“It was scary, really scary, but I knew I had to jump through the window or be burned inside the building,” he said.

Rescue workers rescued him from the roof.

Another survivor, Chris, told public broadcaster TVNZ that he crawled out of his room to escape the toxic fumes.

Firefighters at work during a fire at a hostel in Wellington, New Zealand, May 16, 2023 (AFP – Marty Melville)

“I went to the stairwell. Everything was dark and thick like smoke. It was hard to breathe. Everything was gone. My room was destroyed. I took my wipes and my phone but I left my shoes,” They said.

Emergency services estimated that around 90 people were in the establishment at the time of the fire. Several residents said the building’s smoke detector went off so often that they doubted it was a true emergency.

According to emergency services, six people were taken to hospital, one in a serious condition, and 15 others were treated at the scene.

Emergency Services Manager Nick Pyatt said, “Fires like this only happen about once every ten years in Wellington. It’s our worst nightmare.”

– “Comfortable and affordable accommodation” –

The hotel accommodates both long-term and short-term residents, said the Mayor of Wellington.

According to him, some of them are vulnerable people, who live on low incomes or “transiently” in New Zealand, a country with a housing crisis.

Loafers Lodge in Wellington, devastated by fire on May 16, 2023 (AFP - Marty Melville)
Loafers Lodge in Wellington, devastated by fire on May 16, 2023 (AFP – Marty Melville)

“For our community in Wellington, it is a dark day,” Ms Vanau said in a TV interview.

However, a police spokesman estimated that the final death toll “should not exceed ten”.

On its website, Loafers Lodge bills itself as a “convenient and affordable place to stay.” It offers single rooms and shared kitchen and living space.

The prime minister explained that many night workers or daily workers were staying at this hotel, making it difficult to determine the number of people inside at the time of the fire.

“We will have an opportunity to verify that this building complies with all the regulations it had to respect,” Mr Hipkins said.

The cause of the fire remains “unclear” at the moment, indicated police who announced the launch of an investigation.

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