At least six people are dead and 11 are missing after a fire broke out at a four-story hostel in Wellington, New Zealand.
The 92-room Loafers Lodge hostel in Newtown, south Wellington, caught fire just after midnight Monday, prompting an evacuation.
Local fire chief Nick Pyatt said it was a “once-in-a-decade fire” in the nation’s capital and described the tragedy as “our worst nightmare ever”.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who visited the scene Tuesday morning, said at least six people had died.
“I’ve heard six have already been confirmed and it looks like there’s likely to be more.”
Local residents have described horrifying details of how they made split-second decisions to save their lives as the fire engulfed their building.
“It was just scary, it was really scary, but I knew I had to jump out the window or just burn up in the building,” Tala Sili, a lodge resident, told RNZ news agency.
Loafers Lodge offered people of all ages simple, affordable rooms with shared lounges, kitchens, and laundry facilities.
“Jump out of the window or just burn in the building”: residents describe their horror
More reports surface from residents of Loafers Lodge expressing their horror after a major fire devastated their building and they had to make split-second decisions to save their lives.
Tala Sili, a resident of the lodge, told RNZ news agency he saw smoke pouring from under his door and when he opened it, the hallway was pitch black.
“I was on the top floor and 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 fell onto a roof two stories below.
He said he was rescued from the roof by paramedics and treated for a sprained ankle.
Stuti MishraMay 16, 2023 4:30 am
The police announce “Operation Rose” to track down survivors
New Zealand Police have asked for help determining who survived the fire and who didn’t as part of a relief effort called Operation Rose.
“Police are urging anyone who has stayed safe at the Loafers Lodge on Adelaide Road, Newtown in Wellington for the past few days, or anyone who has concerns about someone, to get in touch with us ‘ the police said.
“You will be asked to call 105 and refer Operation Rose, or go online and select the ‘Something Else’ form related to Operation Rose.”
“Police are using these reports, as well as other information from our community partners, to determine who was in the building at the time and to ensure their well-being.”
“We are aware of information circulating about the number of dead and missing. But until more is known.” [we] will not be able to confirm figures.”
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 04:00
Many older people reported living on the upper floors
Local residents also say that many of the people on the upper floors of the hostel are elderly.
A resident who escaped from the third floor told The New Zealand Herald that many old people lived on the upper floors of the building.
Another person told New Zealand broadcaster 1Newz that some residents were in their 80s or 90s and that he was concerned if they could come out.
“On the way I grabbed my hat and just started crawling,” said the man, who only wanted to call Chris. “It was hard to crawl because there was only so much airspace on the ground. It was difficult for me, just this small distance – it was a fight.”
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 3:34 am
Local residents say there have been numerous false fire alarms
Residents at the Loafers Lodge hostel told Radio New Zealand that the building’s fire alarms often went off without explanation, meaning many residents had learned to ignore them.
“The alarm, they keep going every week… there’s no good management there, there’s no good management,” Tamrat Isse Adan said the broadcaster.
Another resident, Miimetua Cameron, said she was woken up by a phone call rather than a fire alarm after most of her neighbors had already been evacuated.
Paul Jury, who also lived in the dorm, also said false fire alarms were common.
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 03:07
No sprinkler system in the building
Deputy State Fire Chief Brendan Nally said there was no sprinkler system in the Loafers Lodge hostel and that many residents did not have a clear exit route.
“They had difficulty getting out and unfortunately and tragically quite a few did get out,” he said, according to Radio New Zealand.
He said the building has a dry riser system – allowing firefighters to connect their hoses to a system of internal pipes and pump water to the upper floors – as well as some fire escapes on the outside of the walls.
As of Tuesday morning local time, 52 people had been evacuated from the building and five rescued from the roof while others were missing.
Five people were taken to hospital, two of whom were in serious condition, and another 15 were treated at the scene by ambulance services.
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 2:35 am
The death toll is likely to rise, says the fire chief
Here’s what we know so far about what happened in Wellington last night.
The fire department was alerted to the fire around 12:25 p.m. Tuesday morning local time. They raced to Loafers Lodge on Adelaide Road in Newtown, a southern borough of the New Zealand capital.
Although the fire department has a full register of the building’s occupants, officials said entry was initially unsafe for rescuers and so they weren’t sure how many people might be dead or injured inside.
“There are parts of the building that are significantly damaged and the safety of firefighters is very important,” he said FENZ Deputy National Commander Brendan Nally, according to Radio New Zealand.
“So we are searching these areas very carefully and selectively, but unfortunately we believe the death toll will increase as the day progresses.”
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 02:12
The number of missing persons is 11
Deputy National FENZ Commander Brendan Nally has confirmed the number of missing persons is now 11.
According to New Zealand news website Stuff, firefighters are still searching for so many people after rescuing “several dozen” from the blaze.
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 1:36 am
“This is a fire that only happens once in a decade”
The local fire chief described the incident as a “once-in-a-decade fire.”
Nick Pyatt, District Manager for Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), said: “This is a tragic event for everyone involved. My sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.
“It can not get worse. That’s a fire that happens in Wellington only once in a decade. It’s our worst nightmare.”
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 1:05 am
The hostel housed vulnerable people cared for by charities
A major welfare agency in Wellington said many of them Loafers Lodge Residents are vulnerable people who are under their influence.
The Wellington City Mission, a charitable foundation that supports people in need, told New Zealand news website Stuff that it has taken care of a “significant proportion” of the residents.
“This is an absolute disaster,” said the head of mission Murray Edridge. “These are people who are naturally vulnerable anyway. It is a tragedy for our community.”
The hostel has long been used as an emergency shelter for the homeless and was last listed as such by the Department for Social Development in 2021.
Io DoddsMay 16, 2023 00:53
A ‘worst nightmare’ fire in New Zealand’s capital
Good evening or good morning if you are in New Zealand. At least six people have died and others are still missing after a fire at a hostel in Wellington, which local authorities described as the city’s “worst nightmare”.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkin said Tuesday morning local time that six deaths have been confirmed at the Loafers Lodge hostel in south Wellington and “there is likely to be more”.
Police said they expect the total number of dead to be less than ten but are still waiting to gain access to the building and confirm that number.
We’ll bring you more updates as soon as we have them.
Io Dodds15 May 2023 23:56