“A meteorite plunged to earth in Russia’s Ural Mountains Friday, exploding into flames in a powerful blast that smashed windows and injured around 1,000 people,” according to Wall Street. “Amateur videos broadcast on state television showed an object streaking across the sky trailing smoke around 9:20 a.m. local time before bursting into a fireball. Residents in the city of Chelyabinsk, the largest in the affected region, described a shock wave that blew in doors, smashed glass and set off car alarms.”
“We didn’t understand what was happening. We thought an airplane had crashed,” said a woman who answered the phone at the city administration.
“That kind of light doesn’t happen in life, only at the end of the world,” Vlada Palagina, a Chelyabinsk school teacher, told the LifeNews website.
A spokeswoman for Russia’s Emergency Ministry, Elena Smirnikh said some fragments fell near the town of Satka, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the regional capital city of Chelyabinsk.
“The light was so intense that it completely illuminated the courtyard of our apartment block,” said Sergei Zakharov, head of the Russian Geographical Society in Chelyabinsk. “The sound, the shock wave came around six minutes later. No one could understand what had happened. I’d compare it to the explosion of a large flare bomb.”
The Emergency Situations Ministry said almost 1,000 people sought medical attention, mostly for cuts from flying glass. Forty-three people were hospitalized with injuries. Around 3,000 buildings were damaged by the blast, which blew a hole in the walls of a metals factory in Chelyabinsk, approximately 1,500 kilometers east of Moscow, according to Russian media.
Children were sent home from schools and nurseries, and the explosion temporarily knocked out one mobile operator’s network.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the emergency situations minister to provide help for those affected.
“There’s no major destruction,” Chelyabinsk regional Governor Mikhail Yuyevich wrote on his blog. “The main task now is to maintain heat in the apartments and offices where the glass was smashed.”
Scientists said the incident was a rare event,they had predicted that a separate asteroid would pass by earth, missing by 17,150 miles, in the closest known fly-by for a rock of its size.
The meteorite, that felt on Chelyabinsk,was several meters in diameter and weighed around 10 metric tons, Russia’s Academy of Sciences said in a statement. “The object entered the atmosphere at a speed of 15-20 kilometers per second, disintegrated at a height of 30-50 kilometers. The movement of fragments at large speed caused a powerful emission of light and a strong shock wave,” the academy said.
According to the U.S. National Aeronautical and Space Administration, meteoroids smaller than 25 meters (82 feet) usually burn up as they streak through the atmosphere, causing little or no damage.