As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business

What you need to know:

  • A massive fire continues to burn at the SkyCity convention centre in Auckland's central business district.
  • Firefighters have controlled the blaze but flare-ups should be expected for the coming days. One of those flare-ups can be seen in the video above.
  • Newshub understands the fire was started by an unattended blowtorch left by a worker on a smoko. Fletcher Building boss Ross Taylor confirmed blowtorches were used near where the fire began.
  • Auckland Council is trying to determine the exact toxicity of water in the convention centre's basement. Early tests indicate it is safe enough to be pumped into the city's wastewater system.
  • The SkyCity casino reopened on Thursday while the Sky Tower became accessible from Friday afternoon. SkyCity offices won't reopen until Tuesday.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed APEC will proceed in 2021, but it is unlikely to take place at the convention centre as planned.
  • Auckland Regional Public Health Service has compiled a list of FAQs in terms of the heavy smoke and public health. Read the advice here.

3:50pm - Auckland Council officials are keeping a close eye on water safety levels with the runoff from this week's massive blaze going into the harbour.

Safeswim programme manager Nick Vigar says tests show the water is not toxic.

Vigar says it will take up to six days to pump all of the water out of the building's basement.

3:46pm - Authorities have confirmed it's safe for SkyCity business to resume, and the precinct fully reopen.

The SkyCity Hotel and SkyCity Grand Hotel are now both open and taking check-ins.

Customers with vehicles in the SkyCity car park can now return to their collect them.

Those retrieving their vehicles on Friday night are asked to use the Federal St entrance.

3:38pm - FENZ has released footage of inside the scene of the convention centre fire.

The video shows firefighter working inside the convention centre, with aerial appliances outside.

A flare-up can also be seen in the footage, taken on Thursday. 

Watch the video above.

A flare-up inside the convention centre on Thursday.
A flare-up inside the convention centre on Thursday. Photo credit: Supplied/FENZ

3:33pm - There's no telling how long it will take for investigators to figure out exactly what caused a blaze at the central-Auckland construction site.

Recovery team lead Mike Shaw says it's a complex situation.

3:22pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the blaze is a setback, but is confident the city will bounce back.

"Just looking out over the city right now - and you can see the cranes all over the horizon," he said. "You can see the building and the boom and the construction trade happening across Auckland."

2:25pm - Auckland's Heart of the City is encouraging Aucklanders to head into the city and support the local business community this Labour weekend.

"While the impact from the fire will be felt for a while to come, the city centre is open for business with many reasons to visit this long weekend," says chief executive Viv Beck.

"With the weather forecast to be sunny and warm it’s an ideal time to come here – from our diverse retail and hospitality offering and a great schedule of events including a free four-day festival at Silo Park, waterfront celebrations in tribute of the Tuia 250 Flotilla, the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, the opening of the Danish Design exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery and more.

It's also easy to come in. Kids under 16 travel free on public transport, there's great cycle ways to try, and plenty of off street parking."

2:20pm - An erotic massage parlour in Auckland is offering free and discounted services to firefighters who helped extinguish the SkyCity blaze.

Skye from Total Body Bliss told Newshub two members of the fire service made use of the promotion, prompting the business to extend the offer further "to give people more of a chance to recover".

2pm - Fire and Emergency has released a video of firefighters thanking Aucklanders.

1:55pm - The Department of Internal Affairs says it wants to know if there are better ways to fund Fire and Emergency. A review of the funding was announced in March, and since then the Department has looked at different options.

It's released a consultation document for the public and written submissions are able to be sent in until February 5.

"Your views will inform decisions in 2020 on the Government’s preferred approach to funding Fire and Emergency so it is as fair as it can be for everyone.

"Following this, the Government will further consult on the details of the new approach to ensure it meets Fire and Emergency’s future funding requirements, and reflects costs, benefits and peoples’ ability to pay."

More information can be found here.

1:30pm - FENZ is thanking everyone for their generosity and support. Firefighters have been offered everything from food to coffee to free sensual body massages.

12:40pm - Total Body Bliss has made another offer to the firefighters. With valid IDs, firefighters can get a free 60 minute massage between October 25 and 30.

12:20pm - Fire and Emergency NZ says there are no longer any more "big flames" and the investigation into the fire has begun. 

"No more smoke, no more big flames, but there is still work to do. Firefighters continue to work through the overhaul phase by pulling bits of iron and roofing materials out and damping down hotspots," FENZ says.

"We have reduced to one aerial and six appliances. A large crane will be placed on Nelson street tomorrow morning. We hope to have this removed by Monday. The investigation has commenced. Barring unexpected developments, this will be our last update."

12pm - Incredible footage taken by Newshub camera operator Nick Estelrich from a balcony at the Auckland Council office reveals the full devastation of the SkyCity fire.

The roof looks torn apart by the blaze with broken pieces of ventilation strewn across it. Firefighters standing on a platform have been lifted into the air by a crane.

The full video footage can be found above.

As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Newshub.

11:50am - Vigar said full tests of water are being conducted that will allow the Auckland Council to know the ecological impact water pumped into the ocean could have.

His advice to anyone interacting with the water for the next few days - including fishermen - is to treat the water as potentially hazardous.

11:45am - Nick Vigar from Auckland Council's SafeSwim team says there is some hydrocarbon contamination in the water in the basement. But the contamination is low enough to be pumped into the wastewater system. 

The water has now been diverted away from the stormwater system where it was being pumped on Thursday. That means it is no longer going into the harbour. About 1.8 million litres of water was funnelled into the stormwater system before it was switched off.

He said it will take 4-6 days for the water to be pumped out.

11:40am - Mike Shaw - who is leading the recovery team - says investigations will be starting soon into the cause of the fire. He said this situation is new to the team as they are used to rural fires.

Shaw wouldn't speculate on how long the investigation will take. The team would work alongside WorkSafe and Civil Defence.

Roads around the centre could be closed for another week while investigations are underway but Shaw said they would look to open them as soon as possible.

11:35am - The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has released a new health advice update.

11:30am - Fire and Emergency NZ's assistant area commander Dave Woon has expressed his thanks to all firefighters and administration staff who have been working to see the fire put out.

He said there are still flames, but the fire is controlled. Firefighters are working in an "overhaul" mode, where they are ripping pieces of iron and other materials off the structure to get to hotspots.

Woon said there is only one aerial appliance still at the scene. 

Dave Woon.
Dave Woon. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:25am - Fire and Emergency NZ has released extraordinary photos from inside the wrecked convention centre.

As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Fire and Emergency.
As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Fire and Emergency.
As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Fire and Emergency.
As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Fire and Emergency.
As it happened - SkyCity blaze: Casino, hotel and tower back in business
Photo credit: Fire and Emergency.

11:05am - On Thursday, Total Body Bliss - which "provides the most luxurious, custom sensual massage experience in Auckland" - offered firefighters 50 percent off. Newshub is contacting the establishment to see if anyone took them up on that offer.

11am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Newshub that the city was getting back to normal but flare-ups will continue for a while yet

"There is no smoke. There will be flare-ups from time to time," he said.

"When they expose the ashes to oxygen, there will be flare-ups. There will occasionally be flare-ups in the remnants of the roof. But they are really at the point where they are getting on top of the problem now. We are not getting the smoke pollution across the city that we have had at a terrible rate for the last two days."

He said investigators would be entering the building soon to determine the cause while engineers would also be looking to see if the structure had been compromised.

People bringing cars into the central city are urged to stay away from the affected area.

10:40am - The latest update from Auckland Transport says bus route detours continue for these services: NX2, 101, 22A, 22N, 22R, 221X, 223X, 24B, 24R, 24W, 243X, 248X, 82, 802, 923, 924, 75, 18, 151X, 171X, 172X, 195X, 209, 106, 125X, 132, 132X, 133, 133X, 134, 110, 129, and the OuterLink service.

10:20am - SafeSwim's Nick Vigar will hold a media standup alongside Fire and Emergency at 11:30am. 

9:50am - Auckland Dragon Boat Association Chair Bill Lomas has confirmed to Newshub that a training session on Thursday was cancelled due to the potential threat of contaminated water being funnelled into Westhaven Marina where they train.

Lomas said the association contacted authorities on Thursday morning and have also decided to cancel training on Sunday and possibly Monday. 

He called it very "disappointing" but said training sessions are often disrupted by sewage overflow into St Mary's Bay. 

9:10am - Auckland Council Safeswim Programme Manager Nick Vigar has confirmed to Newshub that water from the basement of the centre will now be pumped into the wastewater system.

"Watercare has confirmed that water from the basement of the International Convention Centre site will be released into the wastewater network at a rate of 25 litres per second," he said.

"Watercare crew will be in the area monitoring manholes to ensure there are no problems arising from the operation.

"Water samples have been tested and Watercare is confident that this discharge will not affect the safe operation of the network."

Water had previously been pumped into the Viaduct basin prompting a hazard alert for St Marys Bay. That will remain until the sea water has been tested and cleared.

9am - Fire and Emergency NZ assistant area commander Dave Woon will hold a press conference at 11:30am to provide an update on the fire.

8:35am - The Auckland Central library has decided to reopen.

8:30am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has tweeted out a new image of the convention centre. He says avoid the area if possible, but the city is still open for business.

"What the Convention Centre looks like this morning. Obviously avoid the area but don't forget the city is still humming and open for business!"

8:25am - RNZ reports the water from SkyCity has now been declared safe enough to be funnelled into the city's wastewater system rather than into the stormwater system and out into the ocean. 

"It was an unknown quantity, to be sure. I guess it gives us some reassurance that the water we did pump into the harbour is not particularly contaminated, but we'll continue to test," Vigar told RNZ.

He's confident there won't be any long-term problems for people wanting to swim during summer.

The hazard alert at St Marys Bay will remain until the sea water is tested.

8:15am - A Twitter user is reporting the Auckland Dragon Boat Club has had to cancel its training sessions due to potentially toxic water from SkyCity being pumped out into St Marys Bay / Westhaven Marina. This is where the club trains.

While the exact toxicity of the water is unknown, Auckland Council's SafeSwim says it could potentially have "human health impacts" and "ecological impacts". SafeSwim's Nick Vigar says the human element is being managed, but there could be ecological impacts on algae and shellfish for a while.

Newshub has contacted the club to confirm this report.

8am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told RNZ on Friday morning that there had been a few flare-ups overnight as expected. He said he believed torches used by workers likely caused the fire.

Newshub understands the fire was started by an unattended blowtorch left by a worker on a smoko. Fletcher Building boss Ross Taylor confirmed blowtorches were used near where the fire began.

7:40am - The Nelson St cycleway between Cook St and Victoria St has reopened, Auckland Transport says. The left lane of Nelson St is also open while other road closures are ongoing.

Detours on bus routes should also be expected.

7:20am - The latest update from Fire and Emergency is that there were no significant developments overnight. But crews are working on two small flare-ups.

"Crews continued to manage a few flare-ups & damp hot spots"

"A drone has been operating with a thermal imaging camera to direct firefighters to the hot spots."

7am - An air quality expert is assuring residents in Auckland's CBD the smoke from the SkyCity fire won't stick around for long.

The International Convention Centre went up in flames on Tuesday, filling the air with thick black smoke, forcing some residents to wear masks. Firefighters were still dampening down hotspots on Friday morning.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research air quality research leader Guy Coulson says it will clear quickly.

"This is a short-term event, a one-off event. In the grand scheme of things it will soon disappear into the background and shouldn't have any long-term impact."

Fire crews are moving to a recovery phase, and 8 million litres of water needs to be removed from the building's basement.

Kelly Klink from environmental group Protect Aotea [Great Barrier Island] has concerns about where the potentially contaminated water is going.

"It's going to come into the stormwater drains, be filtered out into Waitemata Harbour, then those contaminants will come and be dredged and... dumped out here at Aotea."

Klink says further safeguards need to be put in place before this is done.

"We want monitoring and some testing done of that water before any dredging takes place, or dumping... In the Ports of Auckland, in their consent application, it has already been determined that there are rare and threatened ecosystems out there already."

CBD road closures remain around the SkyCity complex, but there hopes the cordon around the building will be scaled back on Friday.

The casino reopened at 8pm on Thursday. The tower will reopen at 9am Friday, and hotel at 3pm.

"Our health and safety and cleaning teams have been working to ensure our precinct is safe and ready for guests and staff. We are looking forward to welcoming our guests back to our precinct," SkyCity said on Thursday night. 

"We are committed to covering costs that are a result of water damage, employees will be fully compensated for damage to their vehicles."

No one was killed in the blaze.

Newshub.

 

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