Police have charged a man over a fire that broke out on the top floor of Loafers Lodge in Wellington early Tuesday, killing at least six people.
New Zealand police say they have arrested and charged a man with two counts of arson after a hostel fire in the capital, Wellington, killed at least six people this week.
A fire broke out on the top floor of Loafers Lodge in the suburb of Newtown in the early hours of Tuesday, causing extensive structural damage to the four-story, 92-room building that hampered entry efforts.
In a statement posted on Facebook, police on Thursday said they would not rule out charging the man with additional offenses.
“The investigation into the fire is ongoing and police are not ruling out more, more serious charges in relation to the death at the scene,” they said in the statement.
Authorities opened a homicide investigation Wednesday after they said arson was suspected.
A few hours before announcing that they had arrested and charged the man, the police removed the first two bodies from the burning interior of the Loafers Lodge hostel.
Inspector Dion Bennett, acting Wellington district commander, said a reconnaissance team was conducting an initial preparatory examination of the building and expected to recover two more bodies on Friday.
“The examination of the scene is expected to take several days,” Bennett said, adding that police did not know how many people died in the fire.
According to emergency officials, the hostel was not equipped with fire sprinklers.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the country’s building codes do not require sprinklers in older buildings where they need to be retrofitted.
“I’ve asked the minister for housing to look specifically at the issues around building regulations to see if there’s anything more we need to do at this point,” Hipkins told reporters on Wednesday. .
One of the survivors, Simon Hanify, told AFP that he escaped by chance.
The building’s smoke alarms often went off, he said.
“I don’t even leave my room. But I like cigarettes. I thought I would come out because I usually share with other people,” Hanify said on Wednesday.
“There was smoke coming up the stairs, the ceiling and our hallway,” he said.