As the handover from Fire and Emergency services to police came today at the Loafers Lodge building, which caught fire yesterday in Wellington, police confirmed the fire was being treated as arson and homicide.
An extensive search for bodies and also to determine the cause of the fire would likely take several days, Inspector Dion Bennett (Ngāti Paoa Ngāti Hako) said in a media stand-up at Wellington Police Station moments ago.
"We know there are many people waiting for news of families and friends, including residents who escaped the fire, who are keenly waiting on news of their fellow tenants.
"I want to provide the reassurance that we have a large number of officers working on this investigation with the aim of providing a swift and timely outcome."
Before the destructive fire that broke out around two hours later, there was a sofa fire at Loafers Lodge at around 10.30 p.m. on Monday, police confirmed.
Investigation team working rapidly
Emergency services were not notified of the couch fire at the time.
Reasons for police treating the overall fire as arson could not be given yet, Bennett said.
"Because it is an arson investigation we do have a list of people that we want to speak to. I'm not prepared to say who they are. However, our investigation teams are working rapidly."
Reconciliation teams had accounted for 92 residents so far, with those unaccounted for "fewer than 20".
Anyone who may have information was asked to contact police.