A devastating fire broke out at a four-story hostel in Wellington, New Zealand, killing at least six people and leaving dozens more unaccounted for. The Loafers Lodge hostel, which has a capacity for 92 guests, was engulfed in flames around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 16.
Firefighters rescued five people from the roof of the building but were unable to reach others trapped inside. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but local media reported that it may have been started deliberately.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that six people have died in the blaze and said there are likely to be more fatalities. He called it a “tragic situation” and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
Police said they are working to identify the deceased and locate those who are still missing. They said they have a list of hostel residents and are trying to track down 20 people who have not been accounted for.
The Wellington City Council set up an emergency center at a nearby running track to provide assistance to about 50 people who escaped the fire. Many of them were elderly and had lost all their belongings.
The Loafers Lodge hostel provides affordable accommodation for people visiting or working in the capital, as well as emergency housing for some government agencies. The owner of the hostel, Chris Stevenson, said he was unsure how many people were staying in the building when the fire started.
The fire is one of the worst in New Zealand’s history and has shocked the nation. Authorities have launched an investigation into the origin and circumstances of the fire.