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Monday, March 4, 2024

New Zealand dormitory fire: 6 dead, more than 50 rescued | World News


A fire ripped through a hotel in New Zealand’s capital overnight, killing at least six people and forcing others to flee the four-story building in their pajamas, in what a fire chief called his “worst nightmare” on Tuesday.

Hipkins said it was not safe for police to enter the building at this time and it may take some time for authorities to confirm the death toll. (Representative file picture)

Wellington fire and emergency area manager Nick Pyatt said 52 people had been rescued from Loafers Lodge in Wellington but firefighters were still searching for others.He said they were called to the dormitory around 12:30am

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told the AM morning news program he was aware of six confirmed deaths and the death toll could rise. Police said they did not have an exact death toll, but they believed the total number of fatalities was less than 10.

Hipkins said it was not safe for police to enter the building at this time and it may take some time for authorities to confirm the death toll.

“It’s an absolute tragedy. It’s a terrible situation,” the prime minister told reporters. “Of course, in due course there will be a great deal of investigation into what happened and why. But for now, the focus obviously has to be on managing the situation.”

Responding to comments from emergency officials that the building did not have a fire sprinkler system, Hipkins said current New Zealand building codes did not require sprinkler retrofits for older buildings.

Fire Chief Pyatt said his thoughts are with the families of the victims and with the crew who rescued those they could and tried to save those they couldn’t.

“It’s our worst nightmare,” Pyatt said. “It doesn’t get any worse.”

Police said the cause of the fire was not yet known.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard McLean said city officials were helping about 50 people who had fled the fire and were at an emergency center set up by the council on a local runway with showers and other facilities.

Many elderly people fled the building in only their pajamas, he said.

“A lot of people are clearly shocked and confused by what happened,” he said.

The lodge offers a combination of short-term and long-term rentals, MacLean said. He said he didn’t have all the details, but believed it was used by various government agencies to provide customers with the accommodation they needed.

Health authorities said two people in the building were being treated in hospital and were in stable condition. Three others have been treated and discharged, while a sixth patient chose to leave before receiving treatment.

Loafers Lodge advertises itself as an affordable place to stay for people while in the capital, whether traveling on business or needing to visit the nearby Wellington Hospital. It has 92 rooms and advertises them as long-term availability.


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