A 48-year-old man has made his first appearance in a New Zealand courtroom charged with two counts of arson after fire swept through a Wellington guest house on Monday night, killing at least five people.

The man’s name was suppressed until his next appearance in Wellington district court in June. He did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody on Friday after his lawyer refused an application for bail.

Court documents showed the man has been accused of setting a sofa on fire at the 92-room hostel, Loafers Lodge, on Monday night, before allegedly starting another fire early on Tuesday. The second charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Police “have not ruled out further, more serious charges in relation to the deaths at the scene”, Inspector Dion Bennett said in a statement after the man’s arrest on Thursday.

Judge Jan Kelly granted the man temporary name suppression to avoid prejudice to his right to a fair trial.

Dozens of boarding house residents fled their beds after fire broke out on Tuesday, with some jumping from windows and five rescued from the roof. On Friday, one person remained in hospital.

The number of people killed or missing remained unclear, and police this week cited difficulties in reconciling lists of those present and contacting those reported missing. Some residents of the lodge — which provided short- and long-term lodging — left their phones behind as they escaped the fire, while others did not want to talk to authorities, officers said.

Bennett told reporters Friday that officers have so far found five bodies in the 92-room hostel. Parts of the four-story building’s third floor were “quite dangerous,” he said, and investigators had been unable to enter those areas.

Bennett was “reluctant to confirm the specific number of deceased and unaccounted for” but the number of missing was “less than 10”, he said. The emergency services had previously confirmed that at least six had been killed. Bennett would not explain why the numbers were different.

Loafers Lodge had about 100 people left there when the fire broke out. It is located in Newtown, close to Wellington’s central city. It had a mix of tenants, including nurses from the nearby hospital and other shift workers, clients from Wellington’s social services and several people supervised by the Department of Corrections.

The deadly fire has prompted government lawmakers to promise a review of regulations governing such buildings.

Four of the bodies found in the charred guesthouse had been removed from the scene, Bennett said Friday. A victim identification process was underway. None of the dead or missing had yet been formally named.