Disasters & Accidents

Man charged over fatal Wellington hostel fire, five bodies found

Sydney, Australia, May 19 (EFE).- A man appeared in a court in New Zealand’s capital on Friday facing two charges of arson following a fatal blaze at a hostel in which police have now located five bodies.

The man appeared in Wellington District Court on one charge related to a couch fire on the third floor of Loafers Lodge on Monday night, and another related to the blaze that engulfed the building in the early hours of Tuesday morning, public broadcaster Radio New Zealand reported.

The latter carries a maximum of 14 years in jail, and the other seven years, reported news outlet Stuff, which added that the man was 48 years old and of no fixed abode.

“We cannot rule out further, more serious charges,” Acting Wellington District Police Commander Insp. Dion Bennett said Friday.

The man, who was arrested on Thursday, was given interim name suppression and remanded in custody until June 19.

Meanwhile, four victims have been recovered from the scene of the fire in Wellington’s Newtown suburb.

“Two were recovered today, in addition to the two recovered yesterday. A fifth has been located and is yet to be recovered,” Bennett said.

The police chief, who in previous days put the death toll at six, gave no details about the possible remaining victim, but lowered the number of people unaccounted for to “fewer than 10.”

Five people were also injured in the blaze, one of them seriously.

Police have now accounted for 99 people who were in the building, he said.

On Tuesday, authorities said the building was not equipped with sprinklers, and the country’s building code does not require them to be retrofitted in older buildings. It had passed inspection earlier this year.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday announced a review into building regulations for high density accommodation.

The lodge had accommodation, communal lounges, laundry rooms and kitchens on each of the three floors of above ground level, according to its website. EFE


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