Fire erupts at convention center being built in New Zealand

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand fire services on Tuesday were battling a massive blaze on the roof of a convention center under construction in the city of Auckland, considered to be the country’s biggest current building project.

Smoke rises as a fire blazes at Sky City Convention Centre, which is under construction in Auckland, New Zealand, October 22, 2019, in this still image taken from video obtained from social media. Amy Wadsworth via REUTERS

The fire, which broke out at the SkyCity Convention Centre, is close to the iconic Sky City tower in downtown Auckland. Videos posted by witnesses on Twitter showed fire and black smoke billowing from the roof of the center.

Some 23 fire trucks from across greater Auckland had responded to the blaze, Fire and Emergency New Zealand said in a statement, after it received multiple calls to report flames.

There was no immediate comment on whether anyone has been injured or trapped in the convention center.

Hundreds of people, including construction workers, were evacuated from the vicinity of the fire, media reports said. Traffic was at a standstill in central Auckland, and people were asked to stay out of the city’s business district.

Police said in a statement that they are assisting Fire and Emergency NZ with cordons and evacuations of workers in the immediate area.

“Fire is really building. People can be seen on the roof,” Auckland’s Mayor Phil Goff said in a Tweet.

With a floor area of over 85,000 square meters, the NZ$703 million SkyCity Convention Centre is considered to be the biggest building project underway in New Zealand.

Owned by New Zealand casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group (SKC.NZ), the project has been plagued by delays.

New Zealand’s largest builder Fletcher Building Ltd (FBU.NZ) is building the center. Shares of SkyCity were down 2.5% on the New Zealand bourse.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Tom Hogue and Richard Pullin

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