Meteorite explosion shakes Chelyabinsk, injuring 400

national February 15, 2013 00:00

By The Guardian, Agencies

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A meteorite has flared spectacularly in the sky and exploded over the Russian region of Chelyabinsk, reportedly injuring around 400 people. (Scroll down for videoX

Fragments of the meteor fell in a thinly populated area of theChelyabinsk region, the Emergency Ministry said in a statement.

Interior Ministry spokesman Vadim Kolesnikov said 102 people had called for medical assistance following the incident, mostly for treatment of injuries from glass broken by the explosions.

Kolsenikov also said about 600 square meters (6,000 square feet) of a roof at a zinc factory had collapsed.

Reports conflicted on what exactly happened in the clear skies. A ministry spokeswoman, Elena Smirnikh, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was a single meteorite.

The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, the witness said, and mobile phones were working intermittently.

"Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain," an emergency official told RIA-Novosti. "We have information about a blast at 10,000-metre (32,800-ft) altitude. It is being verified.

"No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were quickly informed.

Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 am local time (0320 GMT), leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.

The emergencies ministry described Friday's events as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.
Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and kindergartens. They said a blast had been heard at an altitude of 10,000 metres (32,800 feet), apparently signalling it occurred when the meteorite entered
Earth's atmosphere.
In 1908 a meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000sq km (1,250 miles) in Siberia in what became known as the Tunguska event.

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