WELLINGTON, New Zealand — At least six people were killed after a fire erupted overnight Tuesday in a hostel in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“It is an absolute tragedy,” Mr. Hipkins told reporters at Parliament on Tuesday. “It is horrific situation.”
The cause of the fire was still being investigated. There would be “a number of investigations” into the disaster, the prime minister said.
The hostel has no sprinklers, and the fire alarm did not go off automatically, according to Brendan Neally, a fire service spokesman, told Radio New Zealand.
Four people were hospitalized, one in a serious condition, and 52 residents were rescued, five from the roof of the four-story building.
The total number of confirmed dead is not yet known because the building is still not safe for police officers or firefighters to enter, Inspector Dean Silvester, a police spokesman, said in a statement.
About 90 firefighters battled the blaze at its peak, and the fire was put out about 6 a.m.
New Zealand’s social welfare agency had used the hostel for emergency housing for its clients. Residents of the hostel, which provides low-cost short- and long-term accommodations in 92 rooms, were “fairly transient,” Inspector Silvester told reporters.
The blaze was a “once in a decade” event for the city, said Nick Pyatt, the fire and emergency district manager for Wellington. “It’s the worst nightmare for us,” he added.
On Tuesday morning, firefighters were still at the site of the fire, less than a mile from the center of the city, and Adelaide Road — a busy arterial connection to the city — was closed off.