New Zealand Hostel Fire Kills at Least 6, More Missing

    New Zealand Hostel Fire Kills at Least 6, More Missing
    Last updated May 17, 2023
    Image credit: AP [via New York Post]


    • At least six people died after the four-story Loafers Lodge hostel in Wellington, New Zealand caught fire just after midnight local time on Monday. Police say more than 50 people have been rescued but 11 still remain unaccounted for.[1]
    • The blaze broke out on the top floor of the hostel, located in the Newtown neighborhood, which provided accommodation for people including construction workers, hospital staff, and those serving sentences in the community for minor crimes.[2]
    • While the cause of the fire is yet unknown and PM Chris Hipkins will be "a number of investigations" into the disaster, fire department spokesman Brendan Neally said the hostel had no sprinklers and the fire alarm did not go off automatically. The hostel, however, had passed an inspection in March.[3]
    • Hipkins added that it is not currently required for older buildings to be retrofitted with sprinkler systems, with other residents saying fire alarms would regularly sound in the building — possibly from people smoking or overly-sensitive alarms — so many initially thought it was another false alarm.[4]
    • Though the death toll is expected to rise due to the unaccounted-for residents, the hostel was home to a number of shift workers, so some may not have been there when the fire broke out.[5]
    • Loafers Lodge, which was designated by New Zealand's Ministry of Social Development in 2011 as an emergency accommodation provider, also contained asbestos, with Fire and Emergency New Zealand director Nick Pyatt urging locals to wear a face mask and keep their windows closed to avoid inhaling toxins.[1]


    Narrative A

    This once-in-a-decade fire is deeply tragic, which is why authorities will swiftly begin investigations into all causes. While some people may be accountable in the end, it is important to remember that the hostel had passed an inspection and the law did not require sprinklers in old buildings such as Loafers Lodge. However, that doesn't excuse the government officials responsible for leaving these already-vulnerable residents exposed to the unsatisfactory safety measures left in place at the lodge.

    Narrative B

    Police are now alleging arson in this case, and previous incidents of suspicious behavior may prove to be the evidence needed to advance such an investigation. As there was a couch fire about two hours before the larger, fatal fire that destroyed the hostel, authorities need to thoroughly probe each resident of the Loafers Lodge and uncover the criminal behind this easily avoidable tragedy.

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