Saturday, 6 Mar 2021

Fire at Apanui School in Whakatāne: Eight classrooms, staffroom destroyed

A Whakatāne primary school’s community has been left “shocked and saddened” after a massive blaze destroyed eight classrooms and a staffroom overnight.

“There are few words for how we are feeling this morning,” Apanui School principal Simon Akroyd said.

He said the entire school community had been shocked and saddened by the fire.

Firefighters battled the blaze at Apanui School, located on McAlister St in Whakatāne, after being called at about 2am this morning.

Akroyd said the cause remained unknown but he was confident the Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s team would work to determine this.

“Right now though, our focus is on our school community – the students, their whānau, and our staff – and supporting them all as best we can.

He said through adversity there was always opportunity to learn and grow and resilience.

“Apanui School has a strong sense of whanaungatanga and I know the school and wider community will come together as we rebuild stronger.”

Akroyd said the school’s leadership team would work with the Ministry of Education and other agencies to ensure their tamariki get the school opportunities they deserve.

Danni Rose, whose child attended the school, said she woke to a loud noise outside their home and could see flames rising.

She said the sky was lit up and glowing with plumes of smoke coming from the school’s building.

She said she was concerned about the impact the fire would have on students, her daughter absolutely loved attending the school and was upset to hear about the incident.

Rose said she isn’t sure whether her child would be able to go back to school.

Until staff found space for children a lot was up in the air, she said.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesperson said six crews were sent to the scene to extinguish the fire, which broke out in the school’s administration building.

The school posted on social media this morning, saying eight classrooms, toilets, a temporary staffroom and “leaky building repairs” have been “lost”.

Dozens of people have responded to photos of the fire in disbelief, with one saying it was “heart wrenching” and another saying it was “absolutely gutting”.

Northern fire communications shift manager Craig Dalley said the blaze was now out.

A fire investigator was at the scene this morning to determine if it was suspicious.

Akroyd said he had utmost praise for the community’s local volunteer Fire and Emergency crew who had put in a significant effort to contain the fire and were continuing to make the area safe.

More than 400 children are enrolled at the school with 35 staff.

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