At least 15 children died in a fire at an orphanage in Haiti, local media reported Friday.

Emergency services reportedly took more than an hour to reach the blaze in the Kenscoff area south of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.

The United Nations children’s fund UNICEF said there were babies and young children among the dead.

There were further injuries in the fire, according to Le Nouvelliste newspaper.

“I am deeply devastated by the deaths of the children in the orphanage,” Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise wrote on Twitter.

“I call on the responsible authorities to swiftly investigate the cause of this tragedy.”

The orphanage was reportedly run by the an evangelical religious group from the United States — the Church of Bible Understanding. Several reports indicated the group was not running the children’s home in a responsible way.

UNICEF said the operators did not have a license to operate an orphanage, citing Haiti’s institute for social welfare, IBESR.

It is common for children to be handed over to orphanages in Haiti by parents who do not consider themselves capable of caring for them.

Haiti is regarded as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It is largely dependent on foreign aid, and suffers from high levels of corruption and crime. It has also been repeatedly plagued by natural disasters, including an earthquake a decade ago that killed more than 200,000 people.


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