New Zealand police arrested a man accused of starting the deadly hostel fire. news

Police have registered a case of fire on the top floor of Loafers Lodge in Wellington in the early hours of 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-storey, 92-room building, hampering efforts to break in.

In a statement posted on Facebook, police said on Thursday they could not rule out charging the man with further offences.

“The investigation into the fire is ongoing and police are not ruling out more serious allegations in relation to the deaths at the scene,” he said in the statement.

Authorities launched a murder investigation on Wednesday after suspecting arson.

Hours before announcing that they had arrested and charged the man, police recovered the first two bodies from the burnt-out interior of the Loafers Lodge hostel.

Inspector Dion Bennett, acting Wellington District Police Commander, speaks during a press conference in Wellington on May 17, 2023, following the deadly Loafers Lodge hostel fire in the suburb of Newtown [Marty Melville/AFP]

Wellington District Commander Acting Inspector Dion Bennett said a reconnaissance team had carried out an initial preliminary investigation of the building and expected to be able to retrieve two more bodies on Friday.

“The scene examination is expected to take several days,” Bennett said, adding that police did not know how many people had died in the fire.

According to emergency officials, there were no fire extinguishers installed in the hostel.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the country’s building code did not require sprinklers in older buildings where they would need to be retrofitted.

“I have asked the minister for housing specifically the building regulations issues to see if there is anything else we should be correcting at this point,” Hipkins told reporters on Wednesday.

One of the survivors, Simon Hanifi, told AFP he only escaped by chance.

He said smoke alarms in the building often go off for no reason.

“I wasn’t even going to leave my room. But I felt like a cigarette. I thought I’d go out because I usually share them with other people,” Hanifi said on Wednesday.

“Smoke was coming out of the stairs, through the roof and down our hallway,” he said.

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