Hundreds ill after Peru ‘toxic meteor crash’

Hundreds of people have suffered headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems after an object from space – believed to be a meteorite – crashed in southern Peru.

Eyewitnesses watched a fiery ball fall from the sky and smash into the remote Andean plain near the Bolivian border on Saturday, local media reported.

When villagers went to investigate, they encountered fetid, noxious gases, according to local health officials.

Jorge Lopez, director of the health department in the southern state of Puno, 800 miles south of Lima, said at least 200 people had become ill after inhaling “toxic” fumes emanating from the resulting crater.

“This is caused by the gas they have inhaled after the crash,” Mr Lopez said.

Ursula Marvin, a meteor expert at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts, said it was likely the dust raised when the object hit the ground was causing the health problems.

She said a meteorite “wouldn’t get much gas out of the earth”.

Three geologists from Peru’s Geophysics Institute are on their way to the site to determine whether it was, in fact, a meteorite, and are expected to present a report on the incident on Thursday.

Similar cases were reported in 2002 and 2004 elsewhere in southern Peru but were never confirmed as meteorites.