The fire that broke out in a Wellington emergency housing hostel left at least six people dead, prompting the New Zealand police to open a homicide investigation into the tragedy.
It was stated by the authorities that up to twenty people were still missing, and they were investigating whether or not the fire was intentionally set. A fire broke out at the four-story Loafers Lodge hostel, forcing residents to the roof and some to leap from windows on 16 May.
As a result of the damage, the police are unable to corroborate the number of fatalities. A 48-year-old man has been charged with five counts of murder in connection with a fatal hostel fire, according to New Zealand police.
He has been arrested and accused of arson in relation to the fire. The fire destroyed the four-story emergency housing hostel killing five persons. As the site housed members of vulnerable and marginalized groups, the incident has reignited discussion about the housing crisis in New Zealand.
As it was only one block away from the Wellington city hospital, many hospital employees also used it as temporary housing. Thursday, Wellington Police informed reporters that they had informed the families of the victims of the prosecution's charges. They did not provide specifics regarding allegations.
The catastrophic fire occurred shortly after midnight on May 16, local time. The police promptly launched a homicide investigation and deemed the fire an act of arson.
The victims were five individuals between the ages of 50 and 67, according to police. On the night of the incident, there were at least 99 residents in the building. Some were compelled to crawl through smoke to reach safety when the fire broke out. Others gathered on the roof as they awaited rescue.
Tala Sili, a lodger, stated that he leapt from his window to escape the flames. He was on the top floor, and was unable to move through the hallway because the smoke was too thick, so he leapt out the window as it smelt like poison, he told sources.
Last month, Wellington's fire authorities stated that they were unable to corroborate whether the building's smoke alarms had sounded due to conflicting reports from residents. More than 90 individuals had been located. However, authorities have not yet revealed the identities of the deceased or the missing. Some may be unaccounted for for other reasons, they said.
New Zealand was stunned by the incident on the outskirts of Wellington's city center. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins referred to it as "an absolute tragedy" and stated that it prompted a broader discussion about the nation's housing crisis.
Due to sky-high property prices, escalating rents, and a lack of government-subsidized housing, numerous New Zealanders have been priced out of the housing market.
In the course of the pandemic, an unprecedented number of people in the nation required the services of emergency housing. According to the data provided by the government, the short-term fix has become an option for many people to use permanently.