The fire broke out at midnight local time, atop the Loafers Lodge hostel in the Newtown area of the capital Wellington.
It left behind enormous property damage and six people lost their lives. Authorities warn that the toll could rise, with eleven people still missing.
52 people were rescued.
– There is a significant amount of construction debris from the collapsed roof, but at this point we have located six people, Fire Chief Bruce Stubbs told a news conference, according to the Reuters news agency.
– Our worst nightmare
The cause of the fire is not yet known, but the police consider the incident suspicious, writes Reuters.
– For Wellington, it is a type of fire that occurs once a decade. This is our worst nightmare, emergency manager Nick Pyatt said in a written statement.
He described it as “a tragic event for everyone involved”.
– My deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones.
– Complete Tragedy
Firefighters are working on the assumption that less than ten people lost their lives, but are still trying to identify all guests who were in the hostel when the fire broke out.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins visited the scene on Tuesday.
– It’s a total tragedy and the situation is terrible, he told reporters after the visit.
80 firefighters and 20 fire engines were deployed to battle the flames.
Guest: – I had to jump
One of the inn’s patrons, Tala Sili, says he saw smoke seeping under the door. He opened the door and was greeted by a hallway full of smoke. He decided to jump out the window and onto a roof two stories below.
– It was just terrifying. It was truly terrifying. But I knew I had to jump out the window so I wouldn’t burn inside, he told Radio New Zealand.
“Hardcore coffee specialist. Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Devoted internetaholic.”