At least 15 children were killed on Friday in a fire at a Haiti orphanage run by a US-based Christian non-profit group, according to the authorities.

Melton, Haiti’s chief of child protection for UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency said, “The blaze took place at the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding in Port Au Prince”.

“Unfortunately, the Fermathe hospital where the victims were admitted couldn’t do much. They were already in serious condition and breathing very weakly even before they arrived there,” the official said.

A candle left on a board in one of the hallways in the two-storey complex was the apparent origin of the blaze.

Taking to Twitter, Haiti President Jovenel Moise tweeted that he was “deeply moved” by the deaths and directed officials to “adopt urgent measures” to determine the cause of the fire.

Fire officials are investigating whether a burning candle started the blaze.

The Church of Bible Understanding, a Pennsylvania-based non-profit group, runs two facilities in Haiti housing about 150 children, according to the group’s website.

The group has been operating in Haiti since 1977 and supports several other smaller homes in the country, the group said.

The orphanage, which had the capacity to house 66 children, has been run for the past 40 years by the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding, a Pennsylvania-based Christian organization.

Located in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the orphanage did not have an operating permit.

That situation is the norm in this impoverished country, with only 35 of Haiti’s 754 orphanages having a license to operate.

(With inputs from agency)