Surrounding sites evacuated and one reported hospitalised in serious condition as blaze rips through two floors of the under-construction building in the Auckland CBD.
Last updated: 9pm
Much of central Auckland was brought to a standstill this afternoon after a major fire broke out shortly after 1pm at the SkyCity Convention Centre. SkyCity evacuated the precinct adjoining the complex, which is still under construction.
Phil Goff, the mayor of Auckland, told media this evening that the roof had been abandoned by fire fighters. “From my office looking down you can see the fire started in the western corner, and is now most of the way across the roof,” he said. “They say this will be burning all night.”
He added: “We won’t know until there is a full assessment, but I can’t imagine this will take anything other than months to repair, construction put on hold and a lot will have to be torn down and started again.”
Shortly afterwards, Ron Devlin of Fire and Emergency Auckland said the fire was under control, with the roof having been sacrificed. It would take 12 or more hours to burn off, he said.
❗️ UPDATE 6: Fire in Auckland CBD pic.twitter.com/6aV1rmOzgo
— Fire and Emergency New Zealand (@FireEmergencyNZ) October 22, 2019
The New Zealand Herald quoted Devlin saying: “It is a complex fire. In the roof, involving bitumen, straw and plywood, is compact, and so we are having real difficulty getting into it.
“The roof is not safe to go onto, and the floors below are quite a distance below, so actually fighting and putting out the roof fire is very difficult … The fire is under control now, we are in a managed situation, we are just sacrificing the roof.
As of 6pm, the fire had been reported still to be “burning out of control”. Newshub reporter Alice Wilkins said thick, black clouds of smoke continued to billow from the top of the building. “You can see the water gushing out from the side where they [firefighters] are attacking from above, and pouring that water into the fire.
An emergency alert was issued to mobile phones just after 6.40pm.
The alert, which at least two Auckland based Spinoff staff did not receive, warned: “Very smoky fire in Convention Centre 100 Hobson St, Auckland CBD. Stay out of the smoke, close windows and doors, turn off air condition. If feeling unwell, contact Health line on 0800 611 116. If possible please stay out of the area. Should your building alarm sound, evacuate and call 111.”
Civil Defence said the alert had been sent by Fire and Emergency NZ “to capable phones in the vicinity of the Auckland Central City fire”.
At least one person was taken to hospital and remained in a serious condition, according to St John.
View of the #Auckland CBD fire between 2:00-2:30 pm Tuesday from our time lapse camera.
The peak wind gust at our climate station on the Sky Tower was 58.3 km/h from the west-southwest. pic.twitter.com/sRImHQqBF9
— NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) October 22, 2019
Authorities said the cause of the fire remained unknown. People were urged to stay out of the surrounding area and central Auckland. Several roads in the area remained cordoned off through the evening rush hour.
“There will be ongoing disruption this afternoon and evening, while roads remain closed and public transport is diverted,” said Auckland Emergency Management Acting Director Sarah Sinclair.
SkyCity said it had cleared all premises, which include the casino, the Sky Tower, its hotels, restaurants and offices.
Fire and Emergency NZ said that 23 appliances from across Auckland were responding, along with an aerial appliance dispatched from Hamilton.
The blaze began at the top of the building, on the seventh floor, and spread to the sixth. Bitumen and insulation had fuelled the fire, with concerns remaining about gas cylinders in the area.
Fletcher Building, the construction company building the $700m Convention Centre complex, offered few details, saying in a statement, “Our people and contractors are our number one priority right now”.
The project has been beset by delays and cost overruns. It was originally budgeted to cost between up to $500 million, but had most recently been estimated as likely to come in at more than $800m, with the completion date already put back by six months to late 2020.
Strong winds are forecast overnight.
As of 6pm, the following roads were closed: Fanshawe St eastbound between Nelson St and Hobson St. Wellesley St (between Hobson St and Sale St), Nelson St (between Victoria St and Cook St) and Hobson St (between Wellesley St and Victoria St).
Information on Auckland bus service disruptions can be found here.
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service issued the following advice:
People living or working near today’s large-scale fire in Auckland’s CBD should take precautionary measures to avoid breathing in the smoke. These include:
- Stay indoors away from the fire site and out of the smoke
- Keeping windows closed
- Shutting down external ventilation if smoke is being drawn into your building
- Seeing your doctor if smoke has caused shortness of breath or worsening of asthma symptoms.
- Wiping down surfaces – especially food preparation and cooking surfaces – in areas affected by smoke.
- People who smoke, the elderly, children, and those with heart disease, asthma or other lung conditions are at greatest risk of harm from smoke inhalation and should avoid exposure.
If you experience any acute effects from the fire such as difficulties breathing, wheeze, cough or chest pain, you should seek assistance from your GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for free, 24-hour health advice. In healthy people, most symptoms disappear soon after exposure to smoke ends, and cause no long-term health problems.
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