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Meteorite Fragments Injure Hundreds in Central Russia

17:15 15/02/2013

A hail of meteorite fragments has injured hundreds of people in central Russia, health officials confirmed on Friday.

 MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) – A hail of meteorite fragments has injured hundreds of people in central Russia, health officials confirmed on Friday. 

As of mid-day Moscow time, as many as 725 people had sought medical assistance in the hard-hit Chelyabinsk Region as a result of the strikes, including up to 159 children, various officials said. Figures on hospitalization in the region varied significantly, from 34 to 112, with several reported to be in “grave” condition. Most people were hurt by shattering glass.

 

President Vladimir Putin ordered emergencies officials to provide “immediate” assistance to people affected by the meteorite. Gas supplies were cut off to hundreds of homes in the Chelyabinsk region as a safety precaution and some 3,000 buildings were reported to have been damaged. An estimated 20,000 emergency response workers have been mobilized.

Background radiation levels reportedly remain unchanged. This was confirmed both by emergencies officials, and by the national nuclear agency, concerned because the area has a fair number of nuclear facilities.

Reports about whether this was one large meteorite or many smaller ones initially varied, but the national space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed by early afternoon that the object had been a single meteorite, a report given earlier by emergency officials.

“Verified information indicates that this was one meteorite which burned up as it approached Earth and disintegrated into smaller pieces,” deputy head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry press office, Elena Smirnykh, said.

 

Roscosmos stated the meteorite had been moving at a speed of 30 km per second.

“All the city’s residents saw blinding flashes, very bright ones,” a teacher in the Chelyabinsk Region told RIA Novosti. “Suddenly, it was very, very horribly bright. Not like the lights got turned on, but as if everything was illuminated with unusual white light.”

Officials are trying to determine where the fragments have landed.

The Chelyabinsk governor said one had fallen in a lake in his region, while others have been reported in the Tyumen, Kurgan and Sverdlovsk regions as well. Police said an eight-meter wide crater had been discovered near the Chelyabinsk lake. Radiation levels around the crater were reported to be normal.

Emergency officials in west Kazakhstan said they were searching for two unidentified objects that fell in the country’s Aktobe region.

Eyewitness Footage of Meteorite Strikes

The European Space Agency (ESA) said there was no link between the meteorite and the 2012 DA14 asteroid which is due to pass close by the Earth later on Friday. NASA also said there was no connection because asteriod and the “Russian meteorite” are on “very different paths.”

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum going on in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region, called the meteorite “a symbol of the forum.”

“I hope that there will be no serious consequences, but it is a demonstration that it is not only the economy that is vulnerable, but our planet as well,” he said.

Clarifies latest figures for injuries.

Meteorite Shower Hits Russia, Kazakhstan

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