August 5, 2021

Meteor strike injures hundreds in central Russia

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ss-130215-meteor-russia-tease.photoblog600A meteor crashing in Russia’s Ural mountains has injured at least 950 people, as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.

Most of those hurt, in the Chelyabinsk region where the meteor fell, suffered cuts and bruises but at least 46 remain in hospital.

A fireball streaked through the clear morning sky, followed by loud bangs.

President Vladimir Putin said he thanked God no big fragments had fallen in populated areas.

130215080239-04-meteor-russia-0215-horizontal-galleryA large meteor fragment landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a town in Chelyabinsk region.

The meteor’s dramatic passing was witnessed in Yekaterinburg, 200km (125 miles) to the north, and in Kazakhstan, to the south.

“It was quite extraordinary,” Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya told BBC News. “We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky.”

ice-hole-russia-meteorite“The explosion was so strong that some windows in our building and in the buildings that are across the road and in the city in general, the windows broke.”

Officials say a large meteor partially burned up in the lower atmosphere, resulting in fragments falling earthwards.

Thousands of rescue workers have been dispatched to the area to provide help to the injured, the emergencies ministry said.

The Chelyabinsk region, about 1,500km (930 miles) east of Moscow, is home to many factories, a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre.

ap_meteor_russia_dm_130214_wgOne Russian politician said the event was not a meteor shower but a US weapons test, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, was quoted as saying: “Meteors are falling. Those are not meteors, it is Americans testing their new weapon.”

Chelyabinsk’s health department said 985 people had sought medical treatment, including 204 children, Interfax reported. Two people in the town of Kopeysk were in a serious condition, it added.

The governor of Chelyabinsk region, Mikhail Yurevich, was quoted elsewhere as saying 950 people had been hurt, two seriously.

Mr Putin promised “immediate” aid for people affected, saying kindergartens and schools had been damaged, and work disrupted at industrial enterprises.

Many children were at lessons when the meteor fell at around 09:20 (03:20 GMT).

Video posted online showed frightened, screaming youngsters at one Chelyabinsk school, where corridors were littered with broken glass.

Chelyabinsk resident Sergei Serskov told BBC News the city had felt like a “war zone” for 20 to 30 minutes.

“I was in the office when suddenly I saw a really bright flash in the window in front of me,” he said.

“Then I smelt fumes. I looked out the window and saw a huge line of smoke, like you get from a plane but many times bigger.”

“A few minutes later the window suddenly came open and there was a huge explosion, followed by lots of little explosions.”

In Yekaterinburg, 36-year-old resident Viktor Prokofiev was driving to work when he witnessed the event.

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Russia sends clean-up team to meteorite-hit Urals

A big rescue and clean-up operation involving more than 9,000 workers is going on in the Ural mountains following Friday’s meteor strike, Russia’s emergencies ministry says.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the operation to help some 1,200 people who were injured, including 200 children, mostly by shattered glass.

The shockwave damaged an estimated 200,000 sq m (50 acres) of windows.

Russian officials put the cost of the damage at about 1bn roubles ($33m).

Power of small atomic weapon

A fireball had streaked through the sky on Friday, followed by loud bangs.

A large fragment was thought to have landed in a frozen lake near Chebarkul, a town in the Chelyabinsk region. A Russian army spokesman said a crater 6m (20ft) wide had been found there.

However, a group of six divers inspected the bottom of the lake on Saturday and discovered no fragments amid the sludge.

It’s thought the search for the meteorite will be delayed until the ice melts in the spring.

Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said there was no confirmation yet that any fragments had been found across the region.

Mr Puchkov toured Chelyabinsk city on Saturday to assess the damage.

He said: “We have a special team working… that is now assessing the seismic stability of buildings. We will be especially careful about switching the gas back on.”

More than 9,000 people are working to clear up the damage in the Chelyabinsk region. Most are locals, but some 1,800 people came from neighbouring regions.

Mr Putin said he had thanked God that no big fragments of the 10-tonne meteor – which was thought to be made of iron and travelling at some 30 km (19 miles) per second – had fallen in populated areas.

It had entered the Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (20-30 miles) above ground, according to Russia’s Academy of Sciences, releasing several kilotons of energy – the equivalent of a small atomic weapon.

The emergencies ministry urged calm, saying background radiation levels were normal after what it described as a “meteorite shower in the form of fireballs”.

Some 50 people remain in hospital for treatment – mainly for cuts and bruises from shattered glass.

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