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New Zealand hostel fire: At least six people dead and 11 missing in Wellington blaze

At least six people have died in a fire at a four-storey hostel in New Zealand.

Officials have said that the number of fatalities could rise, as 11 people are still missing.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins called the fire an "absolute tragedy" and a "horrific situation".

The 92-room hostel provided accommodation for people including construction workers, hospital staff and those serving sentences in the community for minor crimes.

Some of the hostel's residents were described as vulnerable and had lost all their belongings in the fire, Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said.

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According to officials, some 52 people have been accounted for. A number have been taken to Wellington Hospital - one in a serious condition and four others described as being in a moderate condition.

Police have brought in specialist officers from across the country to investigate the fire, the cause of which remains unknown.

However, Fire and Emergency NZ assistant national commander Bruce Stubbs told the New Zealand Herald that the fire was being treated as "suspicious".

'It was really scary'

Deportee advocate Filipa Payne told Radio New Zealand a number of deportees were staying at the hostel and she believes that a few of them are among the missing.

Tala Sili was a resident at the hostel and told the news outlet of his escape.

He said: "It was just scary, it was really scary, but I knew I had to jump out of the window or just burn inside the building."

Simon Hanify told the same radio station he had lived in the hostel for five months, adding that there were often false fire alarms.

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Despite his injured leg, he had gone through the hostel's corridors banging on doors to alert his fellow residents.

He said: "When I left my room I could smell smoke in the hallway.

"I went straight towards the kitchen and there was smoke coming down the stairwell.

"I just did a lap of our floor saying: 'Everyone out, this one's real.'"

Another resident, Tamrat Isse Adan, told Stuff.co.nz: "The alarms, they keep going every week, two times, three times, there's no good management there."

Mr Adan escaped with just his mobile phone and jacket and said he does not know where he is going to sleep tonight.

'A tragic event'

The fire broke out on the top floor of Loafers Lodge just after midnight, police said, adding the cause of the fire is not known.

Wellington fire commander Nick Pyatt said: "This is a once-in-a-decade fire for Wellington - it's the worst nightmare for us.

"This is a tragic event for all involved.

"My heartfelt condolences go to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives."

Firefighters were still at the scene on Tuesday morning extinguishing the small fires which remain and assessing the building structurally.

Not all areas of the building have been searched yet because the roof on the top floor had collapsed, bringing down debris.

Firefighters have already confirmed that the 92-room building did not have sprinklers.

Dion Bennett, Wellington Police Acting District Commander, said specialist investigators and investigative teams from around the country had been brought in.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who visited the site and spoke with emergency workers, told breakfast TV show AM: "It is an absolute tragedy and it is a horrific situation.

"In the fullness of time, of course there will be a number of investigations about what has happened and why it happened but for now, the focus needs to be on dealing with the situation."

In comments reported by Stuff.co.nz, the hostel's manager Marie Murphy said residents included doctors and nurses from the nearby hospital, along with unemployed people and meat workers.

She added: "This is very sad for a lot of people - not only the ones who've lost their lives, but those who've lost their homes."