Man sets himself on fire outside New Zealand parliament

 21 Sep 2017 - 10:49

Man sets himself on fire outside New Zealand parliament
Smoke is rising near the parliament building in Wellington, New Zealand, September 21, 2017 in this social media picture. TWITTER Ô@PIPSSQUEAKSÕ via REUTERS

AFP

Wellington: A man who set himself on fire outside New Zealand's parliament was in a critical condition Thursday, police said, just two days before the country's general election.

Fire and ambulance officers rushed to the man, who journalists at the Wellington building said was a lone protester.

Radio New Zealand said witnesses reported seeing the man holding a placard relating to the family court.

One unnamed bystander told the radio station he saw the incident from the nearby Backbencher hotel.

"Everyone was looking out the windows then people started rushing out of the Backbencher with buckets of water and stuff like that," he said.

"I hadn't actually seen what was happening but then when the smoke cleared there was a guy lying on the ground and he'd obviously been burned."

Police would not comment on whether the man's identity was known, or what his motives were.

Senior sergeant Glen Turner told reporters security footage would be examined as part of the investigation.

"Things like this are highly unusual and extremely unfortunate," Turner added.

New Zealand is in the midst of a tightly contested election campaign in which conservative Prime Minister Bill English is battling a challenge from centre-left rival Jacinda Ardern.