According to reports, firefighters found 18 backpackers (15 in some reports) living in shipping containers and caravans when they were called to tackle what they thought would be an industrial fire at 1.40am.

The blaze is believed to have started in a shed on Burrows Rd at Alexandria and spread to the neighbouring NSW Public Works building.

The young foreign nationals are believed to be from Japan and Korea and the shameful accommodation shocked NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins.

“I had a look at the accommodation. It was squalor,” he told ABC radio.

The Australian reported that the owner of the property, Masaaki Imaeda, is now under investigation by City of Sydney council and police, having known the backpackers were lodging in his building.

He was apparently offering accommodation at the property for $A130 per week – or $A190 for two people – with shared toilet, shower and washing machine.

All the backpackers have been taken to temporary accommodation.

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