A man has been charged with two counts of arson over a hostel fire in Wellington, New Zealand, that killed at least six people.
New Zealand Police say they have not ruled out more serious charges being brought in connection with the death at Loafers Lodge in Newtown, which went up in flames on Monday evening.
The man is due to appear in Wellington Court on Friday.
The investigation is still ongoing, police say, but they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the fire.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand government is set to review safety regulations for high-density accommodation in the aftermath of the fatal fire at Loafers Lodge amid claims that the firefighters involved in the fire lacked resources.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) had one ladder truck available to lift hostel residents from the roof of the building in the Wellington suburb of Newtown after the blaze broke out in the early hours of Tuesday.
A man was charged Monday over the fatal fire at the Loafers Lodge hostel in the New Zealand city of Wellington
Firefighters in New Zealand struggled to contain the inferno that saw people jump from windows to seek safety
A total of 33 trucks and 80 firefighters arrived at the scene, killing at least six people.
FENZ chief executive Kerry Gregory said firefighters are very raw about the latest incident, marking an operational review of the agency’s operations, personnel and fleet.
“Firefighter numbers are not where we need them. We are committed to addressing this,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“I want to reassure the public that fire and emergency response are ready, capable and able to respond.”
Mr Gregory rejected claims of a lack of resources and said the agency had enough specialized devices to respond, while admitting the fleet was ageing.
The death toll from the fire remains at six, but is expected to rise as police launch a more methodological search.
“The recovery of those who died in the fire will be the immediate priority for the team,” said acting Wellington district superintendent Inspector Dion Bennett.
“We expect to pick up two of the deceased today and two tomorrow.”
The damage to the interior is extensive, with debris up to a meter high in places.
Police are treating the blaze as arson and have a number of interested parties willing to interview them as part of a murder investigation.
The hostel, which has mainly been used as accommodation for low-income New Zealand residents, housed about 100 people on the night of the fire
Flowers are seen by a survivor for his friends lost in the fatal Loafers Lodge hostel fire
In recent times, the hostel had been used to house low-income Kiwis, a mix of short- and long-term tenants, including some New Zealanders deported from Australia and others with corrections orders.
It’s not clear what residents looked like during the blaze, which led many to jump out of windows or crawl through smoke-filled hallways to try to escape.
Police are also reconciling lists of people believed to have been at the hostel that night by declaring their whereabouts.
There are “less than 20” outstanding people, Insp Bennett said, including the six bodies originally confirmed by FENZ.
There were just over 100 people in the 92-bed facility, which the website describes as “Wellington’s most convenient and most affordable lodging option.”
The fire has sparked outrage and desperation among Wellingtonians, particularly due to the vulnerable nature of those affected.
Many who survived lost all of their possessions and many were left homeless.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday he would task Housing Secretary Megan Woods with looking into building code issues.
“I have already asked officials for advice on what we need to do to ensure buildings are safe for New Zealanders,” said Dr Woods.
Loafers Lodge director Greg Mein has defended the building’s upkeep.
‘Myself, the management, the owner’s family, everyone is just devastated by this. It just completely failed us,” he told reporters.
Mr Main said monthly inspections and a recent annual building warrant of suitability showed that ‘all services are up to standard and … everything was in order’.