Sydney Morning Herald – Feb 15, 2013
A meteor shower has rained down on central Russia, sowing panic as hurtling space debris exploded in the air, blew out windows and injured dozens of people.
“A meteorite (sic) disintegrated above the Urals, partially burning up in the lower atmosphere,” the local office of the national emergencies ministry said in a statement.
Fragments of the meteorite reached Earth, falling in sparsely populated areas in the Chelyabinsk region,” it said.
The statement said “numerous calls of panic” had been received.
Burning streaks lit up the sky, caught by drivers on dashboard cameras and posted on YouTube.
‘‘A serious meteor fell,’’ billionaire Sergey Galitskiy, chief executive officer of OAO Magnit, Russia’s biggest food retailer, said in a post on his Twitter account. ‘‘At our hypermarket in Emanzhelinsk, windows were blown out, the roof shook, there was a strong shock wave.’’
More than 100 people have reported injuries, mostly from broken glass, Vadim Kolesnik, a ministry official, said by phone.
None were serious or required hospitalisation, according to the ministry. Russia’s public health chief Gennady Onishchenko closed schools in the Chelyabinsk region, Interfax said.
As many as 20,000 emergency staff and three aircraft have been deployed in the Urals region, the ministry said.
‘‘No further pieces of the meteor are expected to fall,’’ according to the ministry’s statement.
Reuters reported that a powerful blast had rocked the Urals region with bright objects falling from the sky.
“It was definitely not a plane,” an emergency official said.
“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 altitude. It is being verified.”
A witness in Chelyabinsk reported hearing a huge blast early in the morning and feeling a shockwave in a 19-storey building in the town centre.
The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, the witness said, and mobile phones were working intermittently.
The trace from a falling object could be seen in Yekaterinburg, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Chelyabinsk, another witness said.
A meteoroid is a piece of rock, up to the size of a boulder, that causes a meteor, or visible trace, as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. Pieces that make it to Earth are known as meteorites.