Massive fire at Sky City convention centre

live 22/10/2019

A massive fire has broken out at the SkyCity convention centre. Newshub reporters Jamie Ensor, Sophie Bateman, Mark Quinlivan report:

What you need to know:

  • A massive fire has broken out at the SkyCity convention centre in Auckland's central business district.
  • Smoke can currently be seen billowing from the centre, blocking weather cams and blowing across the wider city.
  • There are reports the fire was started by a blow torch. However, this has not been confirmed.
  • Witness reports suggest the fire has not yet been controlled but more than 20 firetrucks are at the scene, including one brought in from Hamilton.
  • A SkyCity spokesperson says a crisis meeting is underway. The company's first priority was ensuring the safety of workers, something reiterated by Fletcher Building, which is constructing the centre.
  • Auckland Transport is stressing that people should avoid the area. Multiple roads around the scene have been closed.

4:58pm - The fire has been out of control for more than three hours.

"It's understood around 100 people were working inside the building when the fire broke out," Newshub's Shannon Redstall says.

4:56pm - Auckland Transport says road remain closed and Hobson St should be avoided.

Motorists should expect continued delays.

4:51pm - Fletcher Building confirms all its employees have been safely evacuated.

4:48pm - News of the fire had made headlines overseas.

Singapore's The Straits Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters, and news.com.au are all reporting about the massive blaze, which has not yet been brought under control.

4:40pm - Police say cordons remain in place and there is heavy congestion in the area.

4:36pm - Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison says bus journeys will be impacted.

"We are urging people to be patient, and it will take longer to get home," he told Newshub. 

4:28pm - FENZ assistant area commander Dave Woon says it's a very challenging situation.

"We are not on top of the fire, but with the resources that have just arrived, we should be able to make progress," he told reporters.

4:22pm - Power authorities are on standby in Auckland, with strong winds forecast. This could present further problems for firefighters.

4:19pm - The Auckland Regional Public Health Service urges people in the CBD to take precautionary measures, to avoid breathing in smoke.

4:16pm - St John confirms one person has been taken to hospital in a serious condition.

4:14pm - SkyCity says it's made the decision to undertake a full evacuation of the precinct - including the Sky Tower, casino, all SkyCity hotels, restaurants and corporate offices.

Authorities are assisting with evacuations.

4:05pm - Auckland Transport provides an update on road closures in the CBD.

3:55pm - People are reminded by authorities to stay out of Auckland's central business district.

People affected by smoke should stay indoors, and turn their air conditioning off.

3:49pm - FENZ says firefighters are attacking the blaze from the inside. Resources from Hamilton are being called upon.

3:42pm - Newshub reporter Alice Wilkins says there is still huge commotion at Hobson Street.

"Traffic has been brought to a real gridlock because of the road closures, and people are still gathering around."

3:30pm - Assistant Area Commander Dave Woom has just told media firefighters are "not on top of the fire". It's a 'sixth alarm' fire, meaning Auckland is at full capacity - were another fire to break out, fire services wouldn't have enough resources to attend to it.

"We're trying to account for one person, but we don't think it's a problem," he says.

Woom says the fire began on the seventh floor and travelled down to the sixth. It's concentrated around the guttering of the roof, where he has confirmed bitumen and straw insulation are on fire.

"This is a very, very difficult fire to extinguish," he says.

3:21pm - Newshub's Alice Wilkins says firefighters are still battling to contain the blaze.

"There are still a whole lot of fire staff working on that building, working around it, still appliances healing in the cordon."

She says the smoke is thick and black and is wafting across the sky.

"It's thick smoke and it's hanging in the air, you can really smell it."

3:16pm - A change in wind direction seems to have fanned the flames back to their former intensity after it looked like the fire was dying down.

3:12pm - A witness says pallets of rolled-up bitumen (asphalt) that were on the convention centre roof caught fire during the blaze.

They were extinguished but have since caught fire again and are now "way worse", he told Newshub from a nearby building. 

3:05pm - Kiriana Brown could see the fire from her office on Sales Street.

"All I can see at the moment is the white smoke," she told Newshub. "It's gone from being really dark to quite light. So I'm assuming the fire fighters are up there working on it at the moment."

She says she can see a number of fire trucks at the base of the building, but there's too much smoke to see anyone on the roof.

"There's a whole bunch of police officers and all the roads are shut around our building, down the bottom of Victoria Street nobody can get up. Traffic lights are flashing orange, so police are out directing traffic."

Brown has described the moment the fire broke out.

"Everyone started rushing towards the window - we looked out and there were a bunch of people out on the street taking photos, and when you wandered over to the window you could see big clouds of black smoke."

She says she can't see flames anymore and there is less smoke now.

2:55pm - Gale force winds could present more problems for firefighters as they battle to contain the flames.

Auckland's wind speed is forecast to gradually increase overnight, peaking with gusts of up to 90km/h by 8am on Wednesday morning.

2:42pm - FENZ says firefighters are wearing breathing apparatus.

"Twenty appliances and 16 specialist and support vehicles are attending the incident including a fire investigator and operations support.

"Crews are undertaking offensive interior and external attacks. The fire is on the roof."

2:40pm - Newshub's Shannon Redstall says the fire has significantly shrunk in the last 10-15 minutes. A witness has also told Newshub that while firefighters are still on the roof, they are "acting more casual".

2:30pm - SkyCity has released a statement saying the fire is not yet under control.

"Just after 1pm today a fire broke out at the New Zealand International Convention Centre. The fire is not yet under control," a spokesperson said.

"We can confirm that everyone has been evacuated from the NZICC and there have been no reported injuries.

"We are working closely with Fletcher's and the Fire Service to gather as much information as possible, we do not know the source of the fire at this stage. We are currently assessing the situation and the damage.

"The safety of our staff and all people on site is our priority. We will update with further information as it comes to hand."

2:28pm - Newshub has obtained footage showing firefighters battling the blaze.

2:20pm - In a traffic update, Auckland Transport is reiterating roads around the scene are closed.

2:18pm - Nikki Kaye, the National Auckland Central MP, has tweeted her thoughts.

2:13pm - Stuff is reporting that a blow torch used by a worker caused the fire.

Newshub's Shannon Redstall says the smoke is dark and thick, and can be smelt around the CBD. She is looking at the blaze from the 27th floor of the nearby Council building and says the fire does not look under control.

A witness told Newshub dark smoke is wafting towards the Sky Tower.

"I can see dark smoke and it's wafting up and it's heading towards the Sky Tower. Every now and then we can see little bits of the flames popping up over the building."

She said the smoke is getting worse and is covering half of the Sky Tower

"The smoke is heading towards the ocean. It was pretty big when we first noticed it, but it's getting bigger and it's getting darker. It's heading up half the Sky Tower and the wind is picking up again which is making the smoke pick up."

Photo credit: Newshub.
Photo credit: Newshub.

2.12pm - Newshub reporter Shannon Redstall gives Sean a detailed update on Magic Afternoons, listen below.

2:10pm - Fire and Emergency NZ say there are 23 appliances including "one aerial appliance" at the scene.

2:07pm - Fletcher Building has released a statement.

"Our people and contractors are our number one priority right now. We are currently confirming facts and will provide an update in due course."

One witness told Newshub that the flames are about a metre high while a worker in a nearby building said the air conditioning had been shut down as the fire continued to rage.

2:05pm - An image posted to Twitter by NIWA shows the blaze on top of the convention centre.

2:02pm - Witness Courteney Maxwell told Newshub the wind is blowing the smoke across the city.

"It started as light smoke, but it's gotten darker as the wind blew it, it just became darker and darker."

She said people on Queen Street are gathering to watch the commotion.

"People are lining up and watching it and the pedestrian crossing will go green, but no one will cross, they just stand there watching it."

2pm - Google Maps is showing widespread congestion within the central city, with long delays. 

1:55pm - The AM Show is livestreaming images of the fire and smoke from the scene.

1:50pm - A Sky City spokesperson said they were trying to assess if anyone was unaccounted for and were heading into a crisis meeting.

1:48pm - Police say they assisting Fire and Emergency NZ with cordons and the evacuation of workers.

They are also urging motorists to avoid the CBD and stay away from cordons.

1:45pm - Auckland Transport says that due to a "large fire on Hobson St", roads have been closed. This includes Wellesley St (between Hobson St and Nelson St) and Nelson St (between Hobston St and Victoria St). 

"Avoid this area or expect delays and diversions."

1:43pm - A spokesperson from Fletchers told Newshub they are still trying to establish what has happened.

The columns smoke are so thick that Newshub's weather camera has been blocked by smoke from the fire.

Magic will keep updating this page as more information is available.

Photo credit: Newshub.

Many people have posted on Twitter images and videos of the fire. Smoke from blaze has engulfed the CBD.

1:40pm - Goff told Newshub that the flames were not under control.

"The flames don't look to be under control at all at the moment. There are huge plumes of black smoke. The firefighters have arrived, I've seen them on the roof and the trucks are down on the street," he told Newshub.

"The fire is now burning from the west side of the building all the way across to the north side, maybe 80 to 100 metres wide. It's burning on the roof."

Newshub report Ollie Ritchie said there was "incredibly thick" smoke coming from the centre which is located near TVNZ. He said diversions were in place around the central city.