Thursday, April 25, 2024

Wellington rocked by fatal hostel fire

Finance Minister and Member for Central Wellington, Grant Robertson, has this morning visited a makeshift shelter for around 50 evacuees who escaped a fatal hostel fire in the city’s CBD overnight.

In a statement online, Minister Robertson described the blaze at Loafers Lodge on Adelaide Road in Newtown, which has claimed the lives of at least six occupants, as “absolutely devastating news to wake up to”.

Minister Robertson sits with an evacuee this morning.

“My heart goes out to everyone who has been hurt and to the friends and families of the victims,” he wrote.

“If you are in the neighbourhood of the Loafers Lodge please heed the warnings about staying indoors and shutting windows. And those in the wider area are recommended to wear a mask due to asbestos risk.

Fire crews respond to the blaze.

“Obviously there will be thorough investigations of what has happened here, but for now the most important thing is that everyone stays safe and we look after those who has been affected.”

Wellington City Council staff are working closely with multiple agencies and local charities at the shelter to help the hostel occupants who escaped or were rescued from the building.

“We’re aware that the fire in Newtown has taken a tragic turn this morning and that the news that there have been fatalities is extremely distressing,” Council said in a statement.

“Council staff are working closely with emergency services and other agencies to help the people who have escaped the fire this morning – that includes finding them clothing and helping to arrange accommodation.”

Wellington Mayor, Tory Whanau said she was devastated to learn lives had been lost in the fire.

“This is a tragedy. My heart goes out to friends and whānau impacted, and I give my heartfelt thanks to the emergency services who worked tirelessly through the night to help those who needed it,” she said in a social media statement.

“I am immediately setting up a Mayoral Relief Fund to help. Details to come. Arohanui,” she wrote.

Police have closed Adelaide Road between John Street and the Basin Reserve. Buses and other traffic between the central city and southern suburbs has also been diverted.

Fire damage to the roof and upper floor of the 90-room hostel.

“Our initial assessment is that the number of deceased is fewer than 10, however, we are not in a position to be any more specific until we can access the building,” Police said.

“It is currently unsafe and until we can access the building – and reconcile numbers of people who are safe – we are not in a position to determine how many people are deceased or unaccounted for.

“Our focus is on identifying those people as soon as we can.

“We are asking people to please come forward if they, or someone they know, has been staying at the property, so we can eliminate them from our inquiries.”

At the stage the cause of the fire is unexplained. Police are working with FENZ to determine what started the blaze.

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