Wellington rallies to help displaced survivors of fatal hostel blaze

Wellington City Council says nearly 50 people were found temporary accommodation after the fatal fire which gutted the Loafers Lodge hostel in the capital on Tuesday.

Firefighters have found six bodies inside the building, but police would not have a confirmed number of fatalities until investigators had been able to search all of the damaged building.

Loafers Lodge hosts short- and long-term boarders on a budget, and could house more than 90 people at capacity.

On Tuesday, from an emergency evacuation centre in a nearby sports ground, local agencies worked to assist the dozens of people made homeless by the fire.

Police, ambulance, Wellington City Council staff, and Salvation Army and Wellington City Mission volunteers kept up a constant stream bringing in food and essentials to shocked residents.

Doug Brown arrived looking for his friend, Martin, who had lived in the lodge for the last 10 years. He said he was determined to find him, but was running out of options.

African Communities Council of Wellington vice chairman Nigussie Fenja said he was ferrying residents to hotels, hostels and homes and making sure they had food for the night and the next day.

He said lessons needed to be learned from what had occurred.

"I am absolutely gutted, sorry and sad... for those people who lost their loved ones, people who lost their lives in this tragedy.

"People who they think [are safely] sleeping - I'm gutted, I'm sorry.

Many of the residents displaced by the fire arrived at the centre with little but the clothes they were sleeping in.

Wayne George lived on the second floor, and said he was grateful to be given food, clothing, a phone and some money to buy groceries.

George said he was able to make his way down a flight of stairs, but the thick black smoke made him wonder how anyone could have survived higher up.

"They were coming round smashing the doors in to get everyone out.

"Everybody's lost everything, I don't think they'll let us back into the building. There's no way you can get up above the second floor now, it will just be burnt out."

Geetha Grewal volunteers for EKTA, which provided free food to vulnerable people from Asian and Middle Eastern communities. She and her husband were dropping off a boot load of food to the evacuation centre.

"We know some of the people who live in the building, we give out meals on Saturday evenings and some of them have been coming and collecting from us.

"So that's why we immediately said, 'Okay, at least we can get them some fruits that they can eat.' So here we are."

Jordan Adcock, store manager of The Warehouse on Tory Street, was unloading 50 cellphones, shoes and some sanitary products for the residents of the building.

"Any way that they can reach out and talk to their loved ones or get a hold of work and income to help support them through it as well.

"So yeah, it's just a no-brainer."

An investigation into the cause of the blaze will begin on Wednesday.

Police plan to go into the fire-ravaged building to begin recovering at least six bodies and confirm the number of people who have died.

Specialist police teams have flown in from around the country to help as police investigators work to identify those who died.

Firefighters at the multi-storey Loafers Lodge, Adelaide Road, Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Denise Garland