New Zealand International Convention Centre fire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
New Zealand International Convention Centre fire
Date22 October 2019 (2019-10-22)
LocationAuckland CBD, Auckland, New Zealand
Coordinates36°50′57″S 174°45′37″E / 36.8491°S 174.7603°E / -36.8491; 174.7603Coordinates: 36°50′57″S 174°45′37″E / 36.8491°S 174.7603°E / -36.8491; 174.7603
TypeFire

On 22 October 2019, a fire broke out on the roof of the New Zealand International Convention Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. The convention centre is to become part of the SkyCity complex and was undergoing construction by Fletcher Construction, due for completion before the end of the year.[1] The site was occupied by construction workers at the time and was not open to the public.

The incident led to large scale disruption in Auckland for over 24 hours as the fire continued to burn, forcing areas of the central business district to be shut down, in part because of disruption caused by smoke that was deemed toxic.[2][3] Media organisations including TVNZ were impacted by building evacuations and street closures, leading to disruptions in national broadcasts and programming.[4] The effort to put out the blaze resulted in a large emergency service response, including mobile alerts issued by Civil Defence.

By the evening of the fire, it had been classified as a "sixth-alarm", the highest category of response for an urban fire in New Zealand.[5] Efforts to put out the blaze were complicated by unfavourable weather, with winds of up to 110km/h fanning flames.[6] The fire continued to burn through to the following day, and efforts to extinguish and monitor hotspots continued through to Friday of that week.[3]

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management issued a mobile alert following the fire, warning Auckland residents to stay away from the city.[7]

Incident[edit]

Over 30 fire appliances attended the blaze (Auckland fire truck pictured in 2017).

At approximately 1:15PM on Tuesday 22 October 2019, construction workers began to evacuate the building site of the New Zealand International Convention Centre. Approximately 100 workers were on site at the time.[8] Fire and Emergency New Zealand began receiving multiple emergency calls.[4] The official cause of the fire has not yet been determined, however media reports have speculated (based on anecdotal claims by Lindsay Rowlands, an electrician who was working below the fire)[2] that a blowtorch was accidentally left on and unattended on the roof during a process to seal weatherproofing material. Workers were initially confused about the evacuation, unsure whether it was a drill.[5] Ross Tayor, CEO of Fletcher Building, confirmed blowtorches were being used at the time.[6]

An hour after the event unfolded, Auckland mayor Phil Goff reportedly claimed he and other council staff had been watching the blaze, and that it had already spread right through the western and eastern sides of the building.[5] It was reported that people in nearby buildings claimed the heat could be felt on windows, and pedestrians began to gather on Queen Street to watch the smoke as the blaze grew bigger.[9]

The fire burned on through the night despite efforts to keep it under control. By the following evening, much of the roof had burned away. Firefighters made the decision to allow it to burn out. Approximately 30 fire appliances and over 100 fire service staff had been present at the site by this time.[4] The fire was under control by Thursday evening, but firefighters continued to monitor hotspots in the building on Friday.[3]

Shares in Fletcher Building and SkyCity dropped hours after the incident.[10][11]

Casualties[edit]

Nobody died as a direct result of the fire.[12] Four people were injured in the incident; three were treated for minor injuries at the scene, and another was taken to Auckland City Hospital in a moderate condition.[13] A firefighter who suffered a medical event while at the site was taken to hospital in a serious condition, but was discharged the following day.[14][13]

Impact on Auckland[edit]

The fire caused widespread disruption in Auckland for two days. Streets in the central business district were closed, and evacuations of nearby buildings continued into the morning of the 23rd, including the headquarters of TVNZ, the Auckland District Court, and other central buildings.[4] Residents were advised to avoid entering the central city due to smoke being fanned by winds.[15]

The Sky Tower was promptly closed following the fire.[16] By the afternoon of 22 October, the full SkyCity complex had been shut down, including the casino, hotel, and carpark.[6] Other hotels and organisations in hospitality reportedly offered to help SkyCity guests who were displaced by the closures.[17] Among those displaced were the Great Britain Lions who were staying at the SkyCity Grand Hotel when it was evacuated.[18]

Health concerns[edit]

Smoke-related[edit]

Concerns have been raised as to the toxicity of the black smoke. Residents living in nearby apartments claimed that their apartments smelled of "burning plastic" and induced nausea and other symptoms.[2] A spokesperson for the Auckland District Health Board said there had been no smoke-related hospital admissions during the first night that the fire burned,[2] however a public health alert was issued by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service advising residents to stay away from the smoke where possible.[15][19] Those who were near the site began to wear face masks. By Thursday, officials advised nearby residents to keep windows closed and shut down external ventilators in their buildings if necessary.[3]

Water pollution[edit]

Contaminated water that had collected in the basement of the building was pumped out into the Viaduct harbour. Reports indicated there were approximately 100 vehicles parked in the basement and submerged in the water. Auckland Council issued a safety warning to residents as toxicology tests were being conducted to determine if the water posed a threat to human health or sealife.[20]

Disruption of media broadcasts[edit]

On 22 October, 1 News continued to broadcast from its headquarters, on the same block as the fire. Just before the morning show Breakfast went to air on 23 October, they were evacuated. BBC World News aired on TVNZ 1 for 15 minutes, before Breakfast came on air, broadcasting from the streets and in a backup studio: the TVNZ BCP site, which is located under the Spark NZ building down the road from the TVNZ studios. 1 News At Midday was reduced to a five minute bulletin, and Te Karere and 1 News Tonight were cancelled; 1 News At 6pm was a full 60-minute bulletin.[21] On 23 October, programming returned to normal, but still from the backup studio. Lotto New Zealand could not access their studio at TVNZ or their regular draw machines, so the Wednesday 23 October draw was conducted off-air at their Newmarket headquarters using their backup random number generator. It was the first time since Lotto began in 1987 that the draw was conducted completely off-air.[22] They returned to their normal site on 30 October.

Aftermath[edit]

Mayor Phil Goff, pictured in 2018, watched the blaze from his office.

Political response[edit]

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern publicly praised the firefighters involved in the effort, describing them as "incredibly professional" and insisting that it would not change plans for the APEC conference in 2021. She visited the site alongside Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff, who also praised firefighters, stating "they have done us proud."[13] Various MPs praised emergency services battling the blaze during a parliamentary meeting the day following the blaze.[17]

Former Green Party politician Russel Norman made a political criticism following the fire, writing "always said John Key's convention centre deal stank" in reference to former prime minister John Key's SkyCity deal in 2011. He continued, "Today it stinks of burnt plastic, right across Auckland CBD." The comments received backlash for being "inconsiderate" of those harmed by the fire.[23]

Cost of incident[edit]

A day after the incident, questions were raised as to what financial impact the fire would have, and if it would be the burden of insurers.[24] Willis Towers Watson is acting as the insurance broker, but refused to comment to media. SkyCity Entertainment Group decided not to disclose who the insurer is. The cost of repair is likely to cost many millions of dollars.[25][26]

On 7 November 2019, SkyCity told investors that the convention centre would not be ready for conventions booked in 2021, impacting at least two dozen major conferences and ruling out the hosting of the 2021 APEC conference, which would have to find other venues.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NZICC and Horizon Hotel". Fletcher Construction. Archived from the original on 22 August 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "SkyCity Auckland fire: Why is the smoke thick, black and toxic?". Stuff.co.nz. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "SkyCity Auckland fire: How to clean your house after exposure to 'toxic' smoke". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  4. ^ a b c d Manhire, Toby (2019-10-23). "24 hours on: The SkyCity Convention Centre fire explained in 15 questions". The Spinoff. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  5. ^ a b c "SkyCity fire: Fire and Emergency NZ upscale blaze to 6th alarm". New Zealand Herald. 22 October 2019. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "Live updates: Auckland's SkyCity convention centre fire still burning". Newshub. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  7. ^ Neilson, Michael (23 October 2019). "SkyCity Convention Centre fire: Aucklanders advised to avoid central city amid fire disruptions, bring walking shoes". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  8. ^ "As it happened: SkyCity convention centre fire in Auckland". Newshub. 22 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  9. ^ "'It was hot against the windows': Witness in nearby building on SkyCity fire". Newshub. 2019-10-22. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  10. ^ McBeth, Paul (22 October 2019). "NZ shares higher; SkyCity falls as fire rages". New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  11. ^ Gray, Jamie; Bridgeman, Duncan (22 October 2019). "Fletcher Building, SkyCity shares recover after early fall, insurance questions clarified". New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  12. ^ natalie.akoorie@nzherald.co.nz @NatalieAkoorie, Natalie Akoorie NZ Herald reporter based in Hamilton (2019-10-22). "SkyCity Convention Centre fire: Artworks survival a great blessing". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  13. ^ a b c "SkyCity Convention Centre fire: Jacinda Ardern hails 'incredibly professional' firefighters". Stuff.co.nz. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  14. ^ "Person taken to hospital in serious condition confirmed to be firefighter". Newshub. 2019-10-22. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  15. ^ a b "SkyCity fire: Stay away from Auckland CBD and out of 'toxic' smoke". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  16. ^ Herald, N. Z. "Sky City blaze: Fire and Emergency NZ upscale blaze to 5th alarm". ZB. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  17. ^ a b derek.cheng@nzme.co.nz, Derek Cheng Derek Cheng is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald (2019-10-23). "Parliament praises firefighters' response to the 'tragedy' of SkyCity fire". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  18. ^ "Great Britain Lions evacuated from Auckland hotel because of SkyCity fire". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  19. ^ "FAQs - Sky City Convention Centre fire". arphs.health.nz. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  20. ^ "Hazard alert issued as eight million litres of filthy water from Auckland SkyCity fire pumped into harbour". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  21. ^ "SkyCity fire: Lotto won't be televised tonight". 2019-10-23. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  22. ^ "Televised Lotto draw canned as Auckland central studio unavailable due to SkyCity fire". Newshub. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  23. ^ "Outrage over Greenpeace boss Russel Norman's bitter tweet about SkyCity fire". Newshub. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  24. ^ simon.collins@nzherald.co.nz, Simon Collins Education reporter, NZ Herald (2019-10-24). "SkyCity fire: Insurance cover may be refused if 'recklessness' proved". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  25. ^ tamsyn.parker@nzherald.co.nz, Tamsyn Parker Money Editor, NZ Herald (2019-10-23). "Revealed: Nasdaq-listed insurance broker advising on SkyCity's fire-ravaged convention centre". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  26. ^ anne.gibson@nzherald.co.nz @anneherald, Anne Gibson Property editor, NZ Herald (2019-10-22). "SkyCity Convention Centre fire: Who pays for the damage to $700m construction site?". ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  27. ^ "SkyCity fire's impact – damaged convention centre out of action for two years". Stuff.co.nz. 8 November 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.