Loafers Lodge fire: Number of people missing still unknown as search and rescue teams continue combing through wreckage

Six people have been confirmed dead after a fire ripped through a hostel in central Wellington overnight.

But there are warnings that number could climb as search and rescue teams continue to comb through the smouldering wreckage at Loafers Lodge in Newtown.

Authorities cannot put a number on how many remain unaccounted for as they scramble to gather information on those who were inside when the blaze broke out.

Police said they're treating the fire as unexplained, though Fire and Emergency said it's suspicious.

Questions are already being raised about safety systems in the building, with those who survived saying there were no sprinklers and not all the fire alarms went off.

The top floor of Loafers Lodge, which was full of people, was engulfed in flames. It was an inferno no firefighter ever wants to see.

"This is our worst nightmare," said Fire and Emergency Wellington district manager Nick Pyatt.

It was a nightmare that up to 100 residents inside the building woke to, with some trying to bash down the doors to escape.

On the top floor was Tala Sili, whose only option was to leap from the window. He was released from hospital on Tuesday morning with a sprained ankle after falling about eight metres onto a second-storey roof.

"I knew I had to jump out the window or burn inside the building," he told Newshub.

It was a decision that saved his life.

"I opened the window. I was hanging outside scared at first, not sure if I can make it. But yeah, I just leapt off roof," he said.

"I couldn't think. Do it, do it man or you're going to burn."

Emergency services rescued Sili and four others from the roof. But another survivor fears his friends weren't so lucky.

"I believe I've lost about three friends from Loafers. They jumped out of the top floor at 1am."

So far, authorities can only confirm six deaths. Their bodies remain inside the building and it will take some time to identify them.

"We can't say how long the identification process will take, but I give my absolute assurance that we will work very carefully, methodically, thoroughly, and as quickly as we can," said Chief Coroner Anna Tutton.

Police still haven't been inside the lodge because it's too dangerous, so the number of people missing is still unknown.

"This requires an extensive scene examination and as you can see, the building is large and the damage is extensive," said Acting Wellington District Commander Inspector Dion Bennett.

It's been an emotional day for many.

"I feel pretty devastated. I found out about the fatalities this early this morning and if I am honest, I burst into tears," said Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau.

Fire and Emergency were called to the building just after midnight. It took them six hours to bring it under control.

They said the fire is suspicious, but police aren't going that far, instead calling it "unexplained".

Two residents Newshub spoke to say there was more than one fire last night.

One man, who doesn't want to be identified, said there was a couch fire 45 minutes earlier.

"I went downstairs and got told that the fire was out, that was a fire that was started on one of the couches. So I went back upstairs." 

Many of those who escaped fled without their clothes and shoes.

"It's just absolutely unbelievable," one Loafers resident said.

Mayor Whanau has opened a Mayoral Relief Fund to accept donations from the public for victims of the fire.

Any person or organisation wishing to donate to the Wellington Mayoral Relief Fund can deposit funds via the Wellington City Mission here and tag their donation to the Loafers Lodge fire.