PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 14 (Reuters) - At least a dozen children died in a fire that swept overnight through an orphanage in Haiti run by a Pennsylvania-based Christian non-profit group, Haitian authorities said on Friday.
"This was a very tragic incident," Institute for Social Welfare Director Arielle Jeanty Villedrouin told Reuters, saying the priority now was to find a new home for surviving children from the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
"We are going to place them in a transit center while we do research on their family and see if we can reunite them with their parents," she said.
She did not elaborate and the cause of the fire, as well as the exact number of victims, were not immediately clear.
Many of the children in the orphanages of the poorest nation in the Americas have living parents who gave them up because they were too impoverished to look after them.
Contacted for comment, a woman who answered the Church of Bible Understanding's local telephone number said: "We will make it known when it is appropriate."
She did not identify herself and hung up without saying anything further.
The group says on its website it started its first orphanage in Haiti nearly 40 years ago. It says its primary goal is "to spread the Gospel to any and all who will receive it."
Villedrouin said the orphanage did not have state authorization to operate. Just 35 of 754 orphanages in Haiti are officially authorized. The government has closed around 160 over the last five years.
There was no immediate response to a voicemail left by Reuters at the number listed for the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding at its office in Scranton, Pennsylvania, seeking comment. (Reporting by Jeanty Junior Augustin in Port-au-Prince and Sarah Marsh in Havana; Editing by Tom Brown)
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