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‘Not prepared to say’: Grim hostel fire update

Police are working through a person of interest list as arson becomes centre of hostel fire investigation. Picture RNZ
Police are working through a person of interest list as arson becomes centre of hostel fire investigation. Picture RNZ

A people of interest list is being worked through by police as the investigation considers arson as the cause of a deadly New Zealand hostel blaze.

Six people have died and 20 people remain missing two days after the fire tore through the 92-rooms of the Loafers Lodge in Wellington.

Police have confirmed they are now treating the fire as an act of arson, Acting Wellington District Commander Dion Bennett told reporters on Wednesday.

“We are treating it as an arson. I’m not prepared to say why,” he said.

The fire has claimed the lives of six people. Picture: Supplied
The fire has claimed the lives of six people. Picture: Supplied

“We do have a list of people that we want to speak to.

“Because it is it arson and there is a death toll, it is a homicide (investigation).”

Investigators were initially unable to complete their search of the building after the blaze caused major structural damage.

Investigators are working through a person of interest list. Picture: RNZ
Investigators are working through a person of interest list. Picture: RNZ

On Wednesday afternoon, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) deemed the building safe and were able to return to account for the missing residents.

At least 52 people were evacuated from the accommodation after the fire broke out in the early hours of Monday morning.

The search resumes for 20 unaccounted people. Picture: RNZ
The search resumes for 20 unaccounted people. Picture: RNZ

It is understood there were 94 people staying at the hostel at the time, including a number of people recently deported from Australia, NZ media outlet Stuff reported.

The search will resume again on Thursday, with the death toll expected to rise.