A fire has killed 17 people in a Moscow printing warehouse, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has confirmed.

"Sixteen bodies were found in a room, and four injured were brought to hospitals in Moscow," a ministry spokesman said. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, a 17th person later died in hospital.

All victims were originally from Kyrgyzstan, the ministry said, adding that they were in the country legally.

Emergency services were able to rescue 12 people from the four-floor warehouse in an industrial zone in Moscow's north. In total, more than 30 people were present at the time of the fire.

"The incident happened when people were changing shifts at the printing house. It is very hard for us," Abdygany Shakirov, the Kyrgyz representative, told the Reuters news agency.

Criminal probe

Authorities have started a criminal investigation to see if fire safety regulations were followed.

The head of the Moscow branch of the emergency ministry, Ilya Denisov, said the fire was thought to have been caused by a broken lamp in a room containing large quantities of flammable liquids and paper products.

"The fire spread from the first floor through the elevator shaft to the room in which the people were killed," Interfax quoted Denisov as saying. 

About 500,000 citizens of Kyrgyzstan are working in Russia. They often live in appalling conditions. 

Source: Al Jazeera News and agencies