A deadly fire at a hostel in New Zealand is being treated as suspicious.
At least six people were killed when the blaze broke out at Loafers Lodge on Monday night, and several others are unaccounted for.
Fire crews in Wellington have now handed the scene over to the police, and officers are hoping to enter the building within hours.
The move has been delayed by concerns over the structural stability of the building.
Officials have warned the investigation will be extensive, methodical and could take several days.
Image: Pic: Wellington City Council Inspector Dion Bennett said: “Alongside the scene examination, officers will be working to locate and recover those who lost their lives in the fire.
“We know there are many people waiting for news of family and friends – including the residents who escaped the fire and are keenly waiting for news of their fellow tenants.
“I again want to provide the reassurance that we have a large number of officers working on this investigation, with the aim of providing them the answers they need as quickly as possible.”
Firefighters rescued 52 people in the immediate aftermath of the incident, which was described by Wellington’s Mayor Tory Whanau as a “shock to the system”.
“I’m devastated,” she said, adding: “I’m feeling a lot of pain and emotion at those who have been lost.”
Many of the hostel’s residents were vulnerable and lost all of their belongings in the fire.
Some of them told local media that there were regular false fire alarms in the months leading up to the tragedy.
Tamrat Isse Adan told Stuff.co.nz: “The alarms, they keep going every week, two times, three times, there’s no good management there.”
Mr Adan escaped with just his mobile phone and jacket and said he does not know where he is going to sleep.
Tala Sili said: “It was just scary, it was really scary, but I knew I had to jump out of the window or just burn inside the building.”
Image: Survivor Simon Hanify. Pic: NZ Herald/AP Simon Hanify told the NZ Herald he had heard a fire alarm at 10.30pm, adding: “I didn’t leave the building, I just went out to the balcony and had a cigarette and sure enough the alarm was turned off two minutes later.
“It has happened so many times where it’s either a cooking thing or someone smoking in bed – most people, when we have to evacuate, just to stand on the street for a bit and get sent back in – most people don’t even leave their rooms.”
The second alarm – at 12.30am – was real and Mr Hanify ran around knocking on people’s doors, urging them to evacuate.