The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is warning Wellingtonians to look after their respiratory health following a major fire overnight in an inner city suburb.

The fire at a four-storey hostel building broke out in the early hours of the morning. Six people have been reported dead and more fatalities are expected. "This is an absolute tragedy for Wellington. While the emergency services deal with the immediate impacts of the fire, we want to warn residents in the surrounding suburbs and in the nearby central business district to take action to protect their respiratory health," says Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding.

Smoke contains tiny particles that enters the throat and lungs causing irritation. For those with severe respiratory conditions, like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis, this irritation can cause flare ups, which can be serious. It is understood that the building contains asbestos, meaning that toxic particles from this material could also become airborne and pose additional risk.

"We would reiterate the calls already made by emergency services for people in the Wellington CBD and surrounding suburbs to wear masks if they are out and about today. We would also recommend that residents stay indoors if possible, and keep doors and windows closed until the smoke clears," Ms Harding says. "This is especially important for anyone with a pre-existing respiratory condition."

Ms Harding also recommends that people with respiratory conditions keep necessary medications on hand. "If you experience a flare-up, please contact your health professional as soon as possible."


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