Disasters & Accidents

Wellington hostel fire death toll to remain at five: police

Sydney, Australia, May 27 (EFE).- The total number of people killed in a Wellington hostel fire that is being treated as arson and homicide will remain at five, New Zealand police said Saturday.

Fire broke out at Loafers Lodge, a 92-room accommodation building in the capital’s suburb of Newtown at about 12.30 am local time (14:30 GMT) on May 16.

Police had previously said there were six deaths in the fire, but on Saturday confirmed the toll would remain at five.

“As a result of the detailed, methodical search, Police can confirm the total number of victims in the Loafers Lodge, Newtown fire on 16 May is five,” Acting Wellington Police District Commander Insp. Dion Bennett said in a statement.

“Our scene examination is continuing and is expected to extend into next week.”

Police identified the five killed in the blaze as Liam James Hockings, 50; Kenneth Barnard, 67; Melvin Joseph Parun, 68; Peter Glenn O’Sullivan, 64, and Michael Wahrlich, 67.

On May 19, a man was remanded on bail after appearing in Wellington District Court on two charges of arson – one related to the fire that gutted the hostel, and another related to a couch fire two hours earlier. The first charge carries a maximum of 14 years in jail, and the other seven.

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 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, and customers included the unemployed, unhoused, and nurses working shifts at a nearby hospital. EFE


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