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As it happenedended1684223966

Wellington hostel fire – live: Survivors had to choose whether to ‘jump out the window or just burn’

At least six people are dead and 11 are missing

Io Dodds ,Stuti Mishra
Tuesday 16 May 2023 08:59 BST
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Wellington hostel fire: At least six killed after blaze engulfs New Zealand lodge

At least six people are dead and 11 are missing after a fire broke out at a four-storey hostel in Wellington, New Zealand.

The 92-room Loafers Lodge hostel in Newtown, in Wellington’s south, caught alight just after midnight on Monday, prompting an evacuation.

Local fire chief Nick Pyatt said it was a “once in a decade fire” for the nation’s capital, describing the tragedy as “the worst nightmare for us”.

The prime minister, Chris Hipkins, who visited the scene on Tuesday morning, said at least six people had died.

“I understand six confirmed previously and it looks like there are likely to be more.”

Residents have described horrific details of making 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 inside the building,” Tala Sili, a resident of the lodge, told news outlet RNZ.

The Loafers Lodge offered basic, affordable rooms with shared lounges, kitchens and laundry facilities to people of a wide range of ages.

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A 'worst nightmare' fire in New Zealand's capital

Good evening, or good morning if you're in New Zealand. At least six people are dead and others remain missing after a hostel fire in Wellington that local authorities described as the city's "worst nightmare".

New Zealand's prime minister Chris Hipkin said on Tuesday morning local time that six have been confirmed killed and "there are likely to be more" at the Loafers Lodge hostel in southern Wellington.

Police said they believed the total number of dead was lower than ten, but were still waiting to gain access to the building and confirm that figure.

We'll bring you more updates as we have them.

Io Dodds15 May 2023 23:56
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Hostel housed vulnerable people under charity care

A major Wellington social service agency has said that many of the Loafers Lodge residents are vulnerable people who are under its are.

The Wellington City Mission, a charitable trust that supports people in need, told the New Zealand news website Stuff that it had been looking after a "significant proportion" of hostel residents.

"This is an absolute disaster," said mission head Murray Edridge. "These are people who are inherently vulnerable anyway. It’s a tragedy for our community."

The hostel has long been used as an emergency housing provider for homeless people, and was last listed as such by the Ministry of Social Development in 2021.

Io Dodds16 May 2023 00:53
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'This is a once in a decade fire'

The local fire chief has described this 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 all involved. My heartfelt condolences go to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

"It doesn’t get worse than this. This is a once-in-a-decade fire for Wellington. It’s the worst nightmare for us.”

Io Dodds16 May 2023 01:05
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Number of missing people is 11

Deputy national FENZ commander Brendan Nally has confirmed that the number of people unaccounted for is now 11.

That's how many people firefighters are still searching for after saving "several dozen" from the blaze, according to the NZ news website Stuff.

Io Dodds16 May 2023 01:36
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Casualty number likely to rise, says fire chief

Here's what we know so far about what happened last night in Wellington.

Fire crews were alerted to the fire at around 12:25am on Tuesday morning local time. They raced to the Loafers Lodge on Adelaide Road in Newtown, a southern district of New Zealand's capital city.

Although firefighters have a full register of the building's residents, officials said that it was initially not safe for rescuers to enter, meaning they were not sure how many people might be dead or injured inside.

"There are parts of the building that are significantly damaged, and firefighters' safety is very important," said FENZ deputy national commander Brendan Nally, according to Radio New Zealand.

"So we are searching those parts very carefully and deliberately, but unfortunately we believe the number of fatalities will rise throughout the day."

Io Dodds16 May 2023 02:12
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No sprinkler system in the building

Deputy national fire chief Brendan Nally has said there was no sprinkler system in the Loafers Lodge hostel, and that many residents did not have a clear exit path.

"They had difficulty getting out, and unfortunately and tragically quite a few haven't got out," he said, according to Radio New Zealand.

He said the building did have a dry riser system – which allows firefighters to connect their hoses to a system of internal pipes and pump water to upper floors – as well as some fire escapes on the outside of the walls.

As of Tuesday morning local time, 52 people had been taken out of the building and five had been rescued from the roof, while others were unaccounted for.

Five people were taken to hospital, two in a serious condition, and another 15 were treated by ambulance staff at the scene.

Io Dodds16 May 2023 02:35
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Residents say there had been numerous false fire alarms

Residents of the Loafers Lodge hostel have told Radio New Zealand that the building's fire alarms would often go off without explanation, meaning many occupants 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 told the broadcaster.

Another resident, Miimetua Cameron, said she was woken by a phone call and not a fire alarm after most of her neighbours had already evacuated.

Paul Jury, who also lived in the hostel, likewise said there were often false fire alarms.

Io Dodds16 May 2023 03:07
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Many elderly people reported living on upper floors

Residents also say that many of the people on the hostel's upper floors were elderly.

One resident, who escaped from the third floor, told The New Zealand Herald that there were many old folk living in the top levels of the building.

Another person told New Zealand broadcaster 1Newz that some residents were 80 or 90 years old, and that he was concerned about whether they got out.

"I grabbed my hat on the way and just started crawling," said the man, who asked to be named only as Chris. "It was hard to crawl because there was only that much airspace on the ground. For me, it was hard, just that little distance – it was a struggle."

Io Dodds16 May 2023 03:34
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Police announce 'Operation Rose' to trace survivors

New Zealand's national police force has appealed for help in determining who survived the fire and who did not, in an outreach scheme dubbed "Operation Rose".

"Police are urging people who were staying in Loafers Lodge on Adelaide Road, Newtown in Wellington in recent days and are safe, or anyone concerned for someone, to please get in touch," the force said.

"They are asked to call 105 and reference Operation Rose, or go online to https://www.police.govt.nz/use-105#online-report-options and select the form 'Something Else', referencing Operation Rose.

"Police are using these reports, as well as other information from our community partners, to help determine who was in the building at the time and ensure their welfare.

"We are aware of information circulating relating to number of deceased and number of unaccounted for. However, until more is known [we] will not be in a position to confirm numbers."

Io Dodds16 May 2023 04:00
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'Jump out the window or just burn inside the building': Residents describe their horror

More accounts from Loafers Lodge residents are emerging as they describe their horror after a massive fire engulfed their building and they had to make split-second decisions to save their lives.

Tala Sili, a resident of the lodge, told news outlet RNZ that he saw smoke pouring through under his door and opened it to find the hallway pitch black.

“I was on the top floor and I 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 floors below.

It was just scary, it was really scary, but I knew I had to jump out the window or just burn inside the building.”

Mr Sili told RNZ

He said he was rescued from the roof by paramedics and treated for a sprained ankle.

Stuti Mishra16 May 2023 04:30

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