Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images
Damage to a hostel building is seen following a deadly fire in Wellington on May 16, 2023.
Authorities in New Zealand are still trying to determine how many people died in a fire that tore through a hostel in the capital Wellington overnight, killing at least six.
Fire crews were called to the Loafers Lodge hostel in the city center just after midnight local time and found the top floor of the four-story building well down, according to a statement from Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
As firefighters battled the blaze, 52 people were evacuated but it was unclear how many people were inside at the time. As of late Monday, members of the Urban Search and Rescue Squad were still determining whether the building was safe to search.
It is unclear what caused the fire.
Firefighters stood outside the hostel where the fire broke out overnight.
Tala Sili, staying at the hostel, told CNN affiliate Radio NZ the experience was “absolutely terrifying.”
He said he saw smoke coming from under his door on the top floor of the hostel, and jumped two stories to the roof of a nearby building, where he was eventually rescued by paramedics and treated for sprained ankle.
Local politician Paul Eagle told RNZ the temporary nature of many of the building’s residents makes it difficult for authorities to determine who may have been inside the building at the time of the fire.
“It’s unusual that they wouldn’t know who was there at that moment because people can come and go all the time,” the Rongotai MP told RNZ. “It’s a simple place, with a roof over their heads, simple abode.”
Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Emergency services examine the scene after a fire on May 16, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand.
According to the Loafers Lodge website, the hostel offers 92 rooms with common areas, kitchens and laundry facilities within walking distance of Wellington Hospital in Newtown.
Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson Many residents told reporters that they had “completely lost everything they had.”
of New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins visited the site on Tuesday and expressed his condolences to the victims and their loved ones.
“We haven’t seen an event of this scale in a long time,” he said.
A drone assesses the damage following a fire at a four-story hostel in central Wellington, New Zealand.
A mayoral relief fund has been set up through the Wellington City Mission for those affected by the fire, Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau told reporters.
Most of the residents evacuated from the hostel were sent to a safe accommodation, where they were given food, shelter and warm blankets, Whanau said in a video shared on his Facebook page.
At a press conference, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had spoken to Hipkins and offered to help if needed.
“I express my condolences on behalf of Australia to our friends in New Zealand at this very difficult time,” Albanese told reporters in Melbourne. “Any help will of course, as always, be available from Australia to New Zealand.”