A meteor trail is seen above a residential apartment block
in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk. REUTERS
A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over
central Russia, raining fireballs over a wide area and causing
a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings and
injured more than 1000 people.
People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like
an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock
wave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial
city 1500 km east of Moscow.
The fireball, travelling at a speed of 30km per second
according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, had blazed
across the horizon, leaving a long white trail that could be
seen as far as 200km away.
Car alarms went off, thousands of windows shattered and
mobile phone networks were disrupted. The Interior Ministry
said the meteor explosion, a very rare spectacle, also
unleashed a sonic boom.
"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly
became as bright as if it were day," said Viktor Prokofiev,
36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.
"I felt like I was blinded by headlights."
The meteor, which weighed about 10 tonnes and may have been
made of iron, entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart
30-50 km above ground, according to Russia's Academy of
No deaths were reported but the Emergencies Ministry said
20,000 rescue and clean-up workers were sent to the region
after President Vladimir Putin told Emergencies Minister
Vladimir Puchkov to ease the disruption and help the victims.
Workers repair damage caused after a meteorite passed above
the Urals city of Chelyabinsk. REUTERS/Yevgeni Yemeldinov
The Interior Ministry said about 1,200 people had been
injured, at least 200 of them children, and most from shards of
The region of Chelyabinsk has long been a hub for the Russian
military and defence industry, and it is often the site where
artillery shells are decommissioned.
A local Emergencies Ministry official said meteor storms were
extremely rare and Friday's incident may have been connected
with an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool that
was due to pass Earth.
But an astronomer at Russia's Academy of Sciences, Sergei
Barabanov, poured doubt on that report. He said there was no
evidence to support the theory that the meteor had travelled
with the asteroid or had broken off from it.
The European Space Agency, on its Twitter microblog, also
said its experts had confirmed there was no link.
The regional governor in Chelyabinsk said the meteorite
shower had caused more than $30 million in damage, and the
Emergencies Ministry said some 300 buildings had been
One piece of meteorite broke through the ice of nearby
Cherbakul Lake, leaving a hole several metres wide.
Despite warnings not to approach any unidentified objects,
some enterprising locals were hoping to cash in.
"Selling meteorite that fell on Chelyabinsk!" one prospective
seller, Vladimir, said on a popular Russian auction website.
He attached a picture of a black piece of stone that on
Friday afternoon was priced at 1,488 roubles ($49.46).
The early morning blast and ensuing shock wave blew out
windows on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street, buckled some
shop fronts and rattled apartment buildings in the city
"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend,"
said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second
name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke
across the sky and felt a shock wave that smashed windows."
Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors
unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and
A wall was badly damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant
but a spokeswoman said no environmental threat resulted.
In 1908, a meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of
more than 2,000 sq km in Siberia, breaking windows as far as
200 km from the point of impact.
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
Simon Goodwin, an astrophysics expert from Britain's
University of Sheffield, said that roughly 1,000 to 10,000
tonnes of material rained down from space towards the earth
every day, but most burned up in the atmosphere.
"While events this big are rare, an impact that could cause
damage and death could happen every century or so.
Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop