A deadly fire at a hostel in New Zealand is being treated as suspicious.

At least six people were killed when the blaze broke out at Loafers Lodge on Monday night, and several others are unaccounted for.

Fire crews in Wellington have now handed the scene over to the police, and officers are hoping to enter the building within hours.

The move has been delayed by concerns over the structural stability of the building.

Officials have warned that the investigation will be extensive, methodical and could take several days.

Inspector Dion Bennett said: “Alongside the scene examination, officers will be working to locate and recover those who lost their lives in the fire.

“We know there are many people waiting for news of family and friends – including the residents who escaped the fire and are keenly waiting for news of their fellow tenants.

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“I again want to provide the reassurance that we have a large number of officers working on this investigation, with the aim of providing them the answers they need as quickly as possible.”

Fifty-two people were rescued by firefighters during the fire, described by Wellington’s Mayor Tory Whanau as a “shock to the system”.

“I’m devastated,” she said, adding: “I’m feeling a lot of pain and emotion at those who have been lost”.

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