New Zealand’s Women’s World Cup squad had to be evacuated from a downtown hotel on Saturday night after several small fires broke out.
New Zealand police have charged a 34-year-old man with burglary and arson and said he is due to appear in Auckland District Court on Monday. It was unclear whether the incident was connected to the World Cup.
It was the second security issue within three days at the World Cup, following a fatal shooting near team hotels on the first morning of the tournament.
The Football Ferns were evacuated from the Pullman Hotel around 7:45 p.m. local time on Saturday when the fire was reported. All of the players were safe and accounted for, the team said.
New Zealand defender CJ Bott said some players encountered smoke while evacuating. But the players made it out safely and spent a few hours at a nearby restaurant.
“Yeah, one of the fire exits was a bit smoky but the majority of us got down the other safe exit and we exited the building perfectly fine,” said Bott.
Four people were treated for smoke inhalation, according to the New Zealand Herald newspaper. Several small fires were found in the hotel that fire officials determined to be suspicious.
“We had really good security on board that gave us really good instruction and we all kind of dealt with it pretty well,” forward Gabi Rennie said on Sunday. “I think our team is pretty good with dealing with adversity. So it’s just another kind of test.”
New Zealand is co-hosting the Women’s World Cup with Australia. On the morning of New Zealand’s opening match at Eden Park in Auckland on Thursday, a gunman opened fire at a downtown construction site, killing two people. The assailant died after a shootout with police. Five people were wounded.
A moment of silence for the victims was held before New Zealand defeated Norway 1-0.
“I think in any instance when something like this happens, be it in the World Cup or otherwise, these things are concerning,” said Andrew Pragnell, CEO of New Zealand Football. “But I think the way the New Zealand police have reacted in both instances — obviously we have had some big events in the last few days — has been incredible.”
Asked if there is any review of the security at the tournament, Pragnell said additional measures have been put in place and the federation has the support of FIFA.
The New Zealand team continues group play at the tournament on Tuesday with a match against the Philippines in Wellington.
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