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Smoke rises from the roof of a convention center in Auckland, New Zealand
Image: picture alliance / Photoshot

New Zealand: Massive blaze prompts evacuations

October 23, 2019

Despite working through the night, firefighters in Auckland struggled to put out a fire at a construction site. A thick cloud of smoke has blanketed the city, prompting warnings from officials to steer clear of downtown.


A large fire at an under-construction convention center in the city of Auckland continued to rage on Wednesday nearly 24 hours after it started.

The blaze broke out on the roof of the convention center on Tuesday, prompting SkyCity to evacuate its iconic downtown tower as well as hotels, casinos and restaurants.

A time lapse video of the fire posted by NIWA Weather on Twitter showed smoke and flames continuing to engulf the roof of the complex in the morning on Wednesday.

Authorities in New Zealand's largest city urged people to avoid coming downtown as a thick cloud of smoke spread through the city center. Several roads were also closed due to the fire.

One firefighter was treated after feeling ill at the site, but no other injuries or deaths due to the blaze have been reported.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was due to visit Auckland later on Wednesday.

Cause of fire unknown

The New Zealand International Convention Centre is currently the largest construction project underway in New Zealand and is valued at NZ$703 million ($450 million; €405 million).

Smoke from a fire at a convention center hovers over Auckland, New Zealand
Smoke from the fire prompted evacuations from buildings near the construction siteImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M.

The building is supposed to host world leaders for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2021, although the fire has hampered the chances of the event taking place at the site.

"You have got to believe that has put in jeopardy the ability of the convention center to host the APEC meeting," Auckland mayor Phil Goff told the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

He added that officials were working on coming up with a "Plan B" venue.

The cause of the fire as well as the extent of the damage to the building were not immediately confirmed.

Construction on the building was originally scheduled to end this year, but had to be pushed back due to construction delays.

rs/se (Reuters, AP)

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