Loafers Lodge fire: Man charged with deaths in a New Zealand hostel fire
Police in New Zealand have accused a 48-year-old man with five counts of murder in connection with a deadly hostel fire.
He had already been arrested and charged with arson in connection with the fire in Wellington last month.
On May 16, a four-story emergency housing hostel in the capital, Loafers Lodge, burned down, killing five people.
Because the property housed members of vulnerable and marginalised communities, the event has reignited debate over New Zealand’s housing problem.
Many hospital personnel had relied on it for short-term lodging because it was only a block away from Wellington City Hospital.
On Thursday, Wellington Police notified reporters that they had informed the relatives of the victims of the prosecution’s accusations. They did not disclose any specifics about the charges.
The tragic fire broke out on May 16, shortly after midnight local time. Soon after, police initiated a homicide investigation and stated that the fire was caused by arson.
According to investigators, the victims were five men aged 50 to 67.
On the night of the fire, at least 99 people were living in the building.
When the fire broke out, some people were forced to crawl through the smoke to safety. Others crouched on the roof, waiting for help.
Tala Sili, a lodger, said he leaped from his window to escape the fire.
“I was on the top floor, and I couldn’t go through the hallway because there was just too much smoke, so I jumped out the window,” he told RNZ earlier.
“It smelt like poison,” he remarked.
Last month, Wellington’s fire authorities claimed they couldn’t determine whether smoke alarms had gone off in the building due to contradicting reports from residents.
Many New Zealanders have been priced out of the housing market as a result of sky-high property prices, soaring rents, and a scarcity of government-subsidized dwellings.
During the epidemic, the country’s use of emergency housing increased dramatically. According to government data, the interim solution has become a long-term alternative for many.