MOSCOW (AFP) - A fire broke out overnight in Moscow's drug rehabilitation hospital, killing 42 people, emergency ministry and firefighter service officials said.

All 42 victims were women, including two of the hospital's staff, as the fire started in the hospital's women's wing, Moscow's chief fire inspector Viktor Klimkin said as quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency, adding that 10 more were injured.

"The injured are in serious condition, their lives depend on the medical staff's dedication and work," Klimkin said.

Flames began on the second floor of the eight-story building of Moscow's 17th city drug hospital at 0140 Moscow time (2240 GMT Friday).

"The fire started in the cafeteria of the old building. By the time firefighters came, there was intensive smoke spreading," Klimkin said.

A total of 177 patients and 15 personnel were in the building at the time of the blaze.

The drug rehab also had its windows barred and only one exit, which cut off ways out, while the hospital's personnel could not open the barn locks on the window bars, he explained.

Also, the hospital's walls were covered with plastic, which made the fumes particularly noxious, causing people to quickly lose consciousness and die, he added.

"We checked the building, found violations of fire safety rules and gave the administration instructions on how to liquidate them," Klimkin said, adding that state fire inspectors had earlier already appealed to court for the closure of the building which was constructed in the 1950s-1960s.

The staff's actions were "inadequate," he said.

Over 20 fire engines were rushed to the site in south-west Moscow to stop the fire, which according to Klimkin had been reported only half an hour after the flames started.

Conflicting reports came at first as to the number of the rescued, with the emergency ministry putting the number at up to 214.

The blaze may prove to be the Russian capital's most lethal fire since 1977, when 42 people were killed and over 50 injured in flames that swept the gigantic Rossiya hotel in downtown Moscow.

Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse.