As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland

Follow live updates as a massive blaze at the SkyCity convention centre sparks a major emergency response in the Auckland CBD.

What you need to know:

  • A massive fire has broken out at the SkyCity convention centre in Auckland's central business district.
  • Smoke can currently be seen billowing from the centre, blocking weather cameras and blowing across the wider city.
  • One person has been taken to Auckland City Hospital in a serious condition.
  • Fire and Emergency has confirmed the fire is now contained.
  • Newshub understands the fire was started by an unattended blowtorch left by a worker on a smoko.
  • A full evacuation of the SkyCity precinct has taken place.
  • Witness reports suggest the fire has not yet been controlled but more than 20 firetrucks are at the scene, including one brought in from Hamilton.
  • SkyCity says the company's first priority was ensuring the safety of workers, something reiterated by Fletcher Building, which is constructing the centre.
  • Auckland Transport is stressing that people should avoid the area. Multiple roads around the scene have been closed.

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10:06pm - According to St John Ambulance, a fourth person has been treated at the scene for minor injuries.

9:36pm - SkyCity says it has found alternative accomodation for all its hotel guests, including guests set to arrive later this evening.
All facilities in the SkyCity precinct, including the Sky Tower, convention centre, hotels and restaurants have been closed and evacuated. It is hoped the facilities will be re-opened by lunch time tomorrow.
It is also hoped that the carpark will be re-opened tomorrow, with customers being reassured they won't need to pay for the additional day's parking.

9:32pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she will be travelling to Auckland on Wednesday to check in with FENZ and firefighters on the frontline. She will also be meeting with staff from SkyCity and Fletcher's.

8:50pm - As night falls, the flames can be seen throughout the city. FENZ says fire crews will stay on the scene overnight. It has been reported that their plan is to let the roof burn out overnight.

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Jake Wratt

8:24pm - Fire and Emergency said fire investigators are at the site of the SkyCity blaze, but will not be able to do a full investigation into the cause until the fire has been completely extinguished and they can get full access to the scene.

7:55pm - Firefighters have been called to another suspected fire in Auckland's CBD. Police said there was a callout after reports of smoke in a building on Albert Street, but were unable to confirm whether it was a second fire or simply smoke from the SkyCity blaze.

7:28pm - Fire crews are focusing on preventing the blaze spreading to neighbouring buildings.

"It's been fully contained and we're just putting in plans to continue to defend and make sure the fire does not spread," FENZ told Newshub.

7:20pm - Fire and Emergency say the battle to extinguish the fire could last until the early hours of the morning.

6:59pm - Fire and Emergency has confirmed the person taken to hospital earlier was a firefighter who suffered a medical event. 

6:50pm - Auckland Civil Defence has issued an alert, warning people of the smoke from the fire.

"Stay out of the smoke, close windows and doors, turn off air conditioning," the alert said.

"If feeling unwell, contact Health line on 0800 611 116. If possible please stay out of the area. Should your building alarm sound, evacuate and call 111."

6:48pm - NIWA says wind gusts of between 80 and 100kmh are expected in Auckland on Wednesday.

Wind gusts in Auckland on Tuesday peaked at 62kmh, coming from the west. 

6:35pm - FENZ has confirmed to Newshub the fire has been contained. Thirty appliances and more than 100 firefighters are working to prevent the blaze spreading to neighbouring buildings.

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland

6:25pm - Witnesses say the fire is still burning.

6:20pm - Newshub's Alice Wilkins is still at the scene.

She says hundreds of people won't be able to return to their hotel rooms on Tuesday night.

6:15pm - It's feared the fire could have a serious economic impact on Auckland.

Even before Tuesday's blaze - thousands of delegates had to shift venues due to construction setbacks.

Mayor Phil Goff is concerned.

"It's obviously going to hold up the construction further, which is a worry, because there are other events coming up," he said. "It's too early to tell how much of a setback this will be."

6:05pm - Newshub's Alice Wilkins says there's still thick, black clouds of smoke billowing out from the top of the building.

"You can see the water gushing out from the side where they [firefighters] are attacking from above, and pouring that water into the fire.

"The roads around here are still closed off."

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Newshub.

6:00pm - The fire continues to burn out of control. Firefighters have now been battling the blaze for more than five hours.

5:45pm - SkyCity is expected to provide an update shortly. Staff will address hotel guests.

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Newshub.

5:40pm - Fanshawe St is now closed eastbound between Nelson and Hobson Sts.

5:33pm - Health officials say anyone who experiences acute effects from the fire such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing or chest pains should contact their GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116.

5:26pm - Auckland Council acting emergency management director Sarah Sinclair says commuters should take extra care, be patient and stay out of smoke plumes.

Sinclair says bus stops may be in areas affected by smoke.

"We urge people to use their common sense; no put themselves in harm's way bu standing in smoke plumes or downwind of smoke."

5:16pm - Motorists are still being urged to avoid Auckland's CBD due to gridlocked traffic.

Areas of Wellesley, Nelson, and Hobson Sts remain cordoned off to allow fire engines access to the blaze.

"Avoid this area or expect delays and diversions," Auckland Transport says.

5:09pm - Fire and Emergency assistant area commander Dave Woon says resources are stretched.

"We have a sixth alarm - that's Auckland at its capacity," he told reporters. 

5:03pm - The NZ Transport Agency confirms all motorway on and off-ramps are now open.

4:58pm - The fire has been out of control for more than three hours.

"It's understood around 100 people were working inside the building when the fire broke out," Newshub's Shannon Redstall says.

4:56pm - Auckland Transport says road remain closed and Hobson St should be avoided.

Motorists should expect continued delays.

4:51pm - Fletcher Building confirms all its employees have been safely evacuated.

4:48pm - News of the fire has made headlines overseas.

Singapore's The Straits Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters, and news.com.au are all reporting about the massive blaze, which has not yet been brought under control.

4:40pm - Police say cordons remain in place and there is heavy congestion in the area.

4:36pm - Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison says bus journeys will be impacted.

"We are urging people to be patient, and it will take longer to get home," he told Newshub. 

4:28pm - FENZ assistant area commander Dave Woon says it's a very challenging situation.

"We are not on top of the fire, but with the resources that have just arrived, we should be able to make progress," he told reporters.

4:22pm - Power authorities are on standby in Auckland, with strong winds forecast. This could present further problems for firefighters.

4:19pm - The Auckland Regional Public Health Service urges people in the CBD to take precautionary measures, to avoid breathing in smoke.

4:16pm - St John confirms one person has been taken to hospital in a serious condition.

4:14pm - SkyCity says it's made the decision to undertake a full evacuation of the precinct - including the Sky Tower, casino, all SkyCity hotels, restaurants and corporate offices.

Authorities are assisting with evacuations.

4:05pm - Auckland Transport provides an update on road closures in the CBD.

3:55pm - People are reminded by authorities to stay out of Auckland's central business district.

People affected by smoke should stay indoors, and turn their air conditioning off.

3:49pm - FENZ says firefighters are attacking the blaze from the inside. Resources from Hamilton are being called upon.

3:42pm - Newshub reporter Alice Wilkins says there is still huge commotion at Hobson Street.

"Traffic has been brought to a real gridlock because of the road closures, and people are still gathering around."

3:30pm - Assistant Area Commander Dave Woom has just told media firefighters are "not on top of the fire". It's a 'sixth alarm' fire, meaning Auckland is at full capacity - were another fire to break out, fire services wouldn't have enough resources to attend to it.

"We're trying to account for one person, but we don't think it's a problem," he says.

Woom says the fire began on the seventh floor and travelled down to the sixth. It's concentrated around the guttering of the roof, where he has confirmed bitumen and straw insulation are on fire.

"This is a very, very difficult fire to extinguish," he says.

3:21pm - Newshub's Alice Wilkins says firefighters are still battling to contain the blaze.

"There are still a whole lot of fire staff working on that building, working around it, still appliances healing in the cordon."

She says the smoke is thick and black and is wafting across the sky.

"It's thick smoke and it's hanging in the air, you can really smell it."

3:16pm - A change in wind direction seems to have fanned the flames back to their former intensity after it looked like the fire was dying down.

3:12pm - A witness says pallets of rolled-up bitumen (asphalt) that were on the convention centre roof caught fire during the blaze.

They were extinguished but have since caught fire again and are now "way worse", he told Newshub from a nearby building. 

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Supplied

3:05pm - Kiriana Brown could see the fire from her office on Sales Street.

"All I can see at the moment is the white smoke," she told Newshub. "It's gone from being really dark to quite light. So I'm assuming the fire fighters are up there working on it at the moment."

She says she can see a number of fire trucks at the base of the building, but there's too much smoke to see anyone on the roof.

"There's a whole bunch of police officers and all the roads are shut around our building, down the bottom of Victoria Street nobody can get up. Traffic lights are flashing orange, so police are out directing traffic."

Brown has described the moment the fire broke out.

"Everyone started rushing towards the window - we looked out and there were a bunch of people out on the street taking photos, and when you wandered over to the window you could see big clouds of black smoke."

She says she can't see flames anymore and there is less smoke now.

"It's still there, but it's definitely not as prominent as it was an hour ago."

2:55pm - Gale force winds could present more problems for firefighters as they battle to contain the flames.

Auckland's wind speed is forecast to gradually increase overnight, peaking with gusts of up to 90km/h by 8am on Wednesday morning.

2:42pm - FENZ says firefighters are wearing breathing apparatus.

"Twenty appliances and 16 specialist and support vehicles are attending the incident including a fire investigator and operations support.

"Crews are undertaking offensive interior and external attacks. The fire is on the roof."

2:40pm - Newshub's Shannon Redstall says the fire has significantly shrunk in the last 10-15 minutes. A witness has also told Newshub that while firefighters are still on the roof, they are "acting more casual".

2:35pm - Both SkyCity and Fletcher Building Limited's stock have dropped in the last hour, according to Google's tracking.

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Google.
Google's tracking of Fletcher Building's stock.
Google's tracking of Fletcher Building's stock. Photo credit: Google.

2:30pm - SkyCity has released a statement saying the fire is not yet under control.

"Just after 1pm today a fire broke out at the New Zealand International Convention Centre. The fire is not yet under control," a spokesperson said.

"We can confirm that everyone has been evacuated from the NZICC and there have been no reported injuries.

"We are working closely with Fletcher's and the Fire Service to gather as much information as possible, we do not know the source of the fire at this stage. We are currently assessing the situation and the damage.

"The safety of our staff and all people on site is our priority. We will update with further information as it comes to hand."

2:28pm - Newshub has obtained footage showing firefighters battling the blaze. 

2:20pm - In a traffic update, Auckland Transport is reiterating roads around the scene are closed.

2:18pm - Nikki Kaye, the National Auckland Central MP, has tweeted her thoughts.

2:13pm - Stuff is reporting that a blow torch used by a worker caused the fire.

Newshub's Shannon Redstall says the smoke is dark and thick, and can be smelt around the CBD. She is looking at the blaze from the 27th floor of the nearby Council building and says the fire does not look under control.

A witness told Newshub dark smoke is wafting towards the Sky Tower.

"I can see dark smoke and it's wafting up and it's heading towards the Sky Tower. Every now and then we can see little bits of the flames popping up over the building."

She said the smoke is getting worse and is covering half of the Sky Tower

"The smoke is heading towards the ocean. It was pretty big when we first noticed it, but it's getting bigger and it's getting darker. It's heading up half the Sky Tower and the wind is picking up again which is making the smoke pick up."

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Newshub.

2:10pm - Fire and Emergency NZ say there are 23 appliances including "one aerial appliance" at the scene that has come from Hamilton.

2:07pm - Fletcher Building has released a statement.

"Our people and contractors are our number one priority right now. We are currently confirming facts and will provide an update in due course."

One witness told Newshub that the flames are about a metre high while a worker in a nearby building said the air conditioning had been shut down as the fire continued to rage.

2:05pm - An image posted to Twitter by NIWA shows the blaze on top of the convention centre.

2:02pm - Witness Courteney Maxwell told Newshub the wind is blowing the smoke across the city.

"It started as light smoke, but it's gotten darker as the wind blew it, it just became darker and darker."

She said people on Queen Street are gathering to watch the commotion.

"People are lining up and watching it and the pedestrian crossing will go green, but no one will cross, they just stand there watching it."

Newshub has collated a set of pictures and videos from the scene here. 

2pm - Google Maps is showing widespread congestion within the central city, with long delays. 

There's a lot of traffic near the scene.
There's a lot of traffic near the scene. Photo credit: Google maps.

1:55pm - The AM Show is livestreaming images of the fire and smoke from the scene.

1:50pm - A SkyCity spokesperson said they were trying to assess if anyone was unaccounted for and were heading into a crisis meeting.

There are about 20 fire trucks currently at the scene.

1:48pm - Police say they are assisting Fire and Emergency NZ with cordons and the evacuation of workers.

They are also urging motorists to avoid the CBD and stay away from cordons.

Twitter user Wendy Lester said traffic was becoming gridlocked.

1:47pm - A witness told Newshub that he heard an alarm and then saw the black smoke.

"I just heard an alarm go off across the road, then saw black smoke coming out the top of the construction site and all the workers evacuating. People on the floor above us said it was hot against the windows but I didn’t feel anything."

1:45pm - Auckland Transport says that due to a "large fire on Hobson St", roads have been closed. This includes Wellesley St (between Hobson St and Nelson St) and Nelson St (between Hobston St and Victoria St). 

"Avoid this area or expect delays and diversions."

1:43pm - A spokesperson from Fletchers told Newshub they are still trying to establish what has happened.

1:40pm - Goff told Newshub that the flames were not under control.

"The flames don't look to be under control at all at the moment. There are huge plumes of black smoke. The firefighters have arrived, I've seen them on the roof and the trucks are down on the street," he told Newshub.

"The fire is now burning from the west side of the building all the way across to the north side, maybe 80 to 100 metres wide. It's burning on the roof.

"It's burning on top of the roof, but the source of the fire may well be under the roof. It's has been burning for 10 to 15 minutes so there will be quite a lot of damage but hopefully no threat to life. There's room for people to be evacuated from on the roof."

Newshub report Ollie Ritchie said there was "incredibly thick" smoke coming from the centre, which is located near the TVNZ building. He said diversions were in place around the central city.

1:35pm - Journalist Charlotte Ryan said that she saw flames "leaping up". Goff said he could also see people on the roof of the convention centre.

1:30pm - One person told Newshub that it "looks like 9/11 over here".

Smoke can be seen from the street.
Smoke can be seen from the street. Photo credit: Bridie Bradley.
As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Newshub,

1:25pm - Newshub's weather camera has been blocked by smoke from the fire.

A witness told Newshub it looks like all the construction workers have been evacuated and there’s "hundreds" of people gathered outside.

As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland
Photo credit: Newshub.

 

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