Loafers Lodge fire: More bodies recovered, less than 10 remain unaccounted for

More bodies have been removed from Loafers Lodge following a deadly blaze, as police officers continue to search for the less than 10 who remain unaccounted for.

Late on Monday night, a large blaze broke out at the 94-room hostel in the Wellington suburb of Newtown.

The fire has rocked the community, with at least five people confirmed dead by the police. Dozens of surviving residents are effectively homeless and without any possessions.

A man has since been charged with two counts of arson over the deadly fires and further, more serious charges have not been ruled out. Police said no one else is being sought in relation to the fire.

Police would not comment on whether the man arrested was a resident of the hostel.

On Thursday, officers recovered two bodies and, in an update on Friday, police confirmed a total of five bodies have now been found at the scene of the deadly fire, four of whom have been removed.

Acting Wellington District Commander Insp Dion Bennett said 99 people have been accounted for and there were less than 10 people unaccounted for.

Police said there have only been five confirmed deaths, despite Prime Minister Chris Hipkins saying earlier in the week at least six had died.

"Until we have fully examined all parts of the building, we will remain reluctant to confirm the specific number of deceased and unaccounted for,"  Bennett said during a press conference.

He noted there is a chance some people may not want to be identified or it to be known they were at the lodge, making the reconciliation process difficult.

Bennet said several families have been in touch with police over the last few days with concerns for their loved ones.

"Rest assured we are moving as quickly as we can without compromising the investigation," he said.

Acting Wellington District Commander Inspector Dion Bennett.
Acting Wellington District Commander Inspector Dion Bennett. Photo credit: Newshub.

The scene examination is set to continue over the weekend, with Bennett hopeful the fifth body can be removed as soon as possible.

Bennett said sifting through the rubble of the burnt hostel is a slow and dangerous process.

"The scene examination itself, and in the third floor in particular, it is quite dangerous and there are still parts of that floor that we can't cross because of the danger posed by it."

Bennett said the team is being supported by Urban Search and Rescue, who are propping up the floor and supporting the roof in places where it has crumbled.

Those who require help or want to offer assistance are urged to please contact the Wellington City Council contact centre operating 24/7.