A fire at a hostel in New Zealand has killed up to 10 and left up to 11 missing.
The terrible fire broke out last night at a four-story hostel in central Wellington used primarily by the government to house deportees.
Emergency services were called to the Loafers Lodge Hostel just before 12.30pm local time where a fire had broken out on the top floor. New Zealand Herald reports.
A fire chief described the horrific blaze as his “worst nightmare”.
Local residents fear the fire may have been started intentionally.
The Wellington Free Ambulance treated 15 people at the scene and five people were rescued from the roof, according to a TVNZ report.
Some people are believed to have jumped out of the windows to escape the fire.
A source told the Herald there were fatalities on all floors of the building. The police assume that up to ten people died, 52 were rescued.
At least 20 fire engines were on the scene as of 4 a.m. local time, and up to 90 firefighters were battling what Wellington Fire and Emergency District Manager Pyatt described as a “once-in-a-decade blaze.”
The country’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he understood six people have been confirmed dead but there could be more deaths, while authorities say 11 people have not been held accountable.
Mr Hipkins described the fire as a “tragic situation”.
He confirmed that the building did not have a sprinkler system but complied with local building codes.
Wellington Borough Commander Dean Silvester said the main priority for police is to find out how many people were living in the building at the time of the fire.
Mr Pyatt said 52 people had been taken from the building and a number of people are still missing.
The hostel can accommodate 92 people. However, it is not clear how many people were in the building at the time.
According to the Herald, there is speculation that the fire may have been set intentionally.
“ONCE IN DECADES FIRE”
Mr Pyatt said: “This is our unique brand for Wellington.”
“Unfortunately, I can report that this is an incident with several fatalities.
“Our thoughts at this time are with the families of those who died and with our crews who bravely rescued them and tried to rescue those who couldn’t.”
“This is our worst nightmare. It doesn’t get any worse than that.”
“OUR WORST NIGHTMARE”
Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau said this was “our worst nightmare”.
She told TVNZ’s breakfast show: “I’m devastated. I dare say it was a shock to the system – a very emotional few minutes with the crew here.
“I feel the emotions and the regret.”
Resident Chris told how he was woken up by a fire alarm, but when he entered the corridor he couldn’t tell anything was wrong.
He said: “But then it was the neighbor [shouting] ‘Fire! Fire!’ and the whole corridor was full of smoke.”
Then Chris ran to get his phone.
He added, “I was like, ‘What else should I grab,’ at the time, but then I was like, ‘Oh fuck it, I’m out of here.'”
He grabbed his hat on the way out before falling to the ground and crawling out of his room and up the stairs.
But by the time Chris left his room, the building was already filled with smoke.
Chris said: “It was hard to crawl [there’s] just so much airspace on the ground. It was downright scary.”
Warren Holdaway, a dorm resident, said one of the most heartbreaking things was the loss of community.
He said: “Whatever people said about this building, it was our home.
“And now we’re all going to be split up into different motels and hotels, and that community will never be together again.”
Warren added he ran out of the building as soon as he could smell smoke.
He said: “It’s a big building and it was right behind me, when I opened my bedroom door I could smell the smoke.”
“It took me 15 to 20 seconds to exit the building from where I was. I was just down the corridor from a stairwell.”
He said another fire alarm went off earlier in the evening but added he didn’t know what it was about.
Warren added, “I live on the second floor and the fire was on the third floor, at the other end of the building.”
“Fire and rescue services were still there when I left the building.
“The fire brigade made their way and then the flames hit through the roof, the windows.”
A man who lives on the third floor told The Breakfast Show he believes there may have been two fires in the building.
He said during the second fire he opened his door, saw thick black smoke and heard people screaming for help.
A resident of the third floor said many of the people living on the upper floors of the building were elderly.
Loafers Lodge’s caretaker, Murray Murphy, told the Herald: “I don’t live at the lodge. I got a call about the fire just after midnight. Firefighters are still here.
“I just found out from a reliable source that there have been several fatalities.
“The tenants had been moved to Newtown Park Stadium so they were all together.
“Wellington Borough Council is also helping those who don’t have family here to find temporary housing.”
Mr Pyatt, Chief of Wellington Fire and Emergency Services said: “Our communications center staff (emergency responders) have been on the phone with people who they have then lost contact with. This pains us deeply.”
“This is our one-time fire for Wellington.”
“This is a tragic event for everyone involved,” he said.
Deportation lawyer Filipa Payne said the hostel had been used by the government and by Prison Aid and Rehabilitation to house 501 returned deportees who had been deported from Australia through deportation to New Zealand.
“There was quite a family unit. This is a terrible tragedy that will affect people who have been placed there by a traumatic and barbaric system,” she said Things.
“The people who are left behind and are already vulnerable and disconnected.”
Wellington City Council said up to 50 people had been temporarily housed at Newtown Park stadium, where they were given bread, clothes, towels and toiletries.