1,100 injured after meteor fragments hit Russian city

INT

Bright objects, apparently debris from a meteor, streaked through the sky in western Siberia early on Friday, accompanied by a boom that damaged buildings across a vast territory. Russia's Interior Ministry said more than 1,100 people were hurt, 200 of them children, mostly from shards of glass that shattered when the meteor entered the atmosphere.

Most of the injured belonged to Chelyabinsk city, about 950 miles east of Moscow, a region where many factories for defence, including nuclear weapons production, are situated. But there was no reports of any radiation leaks, officials said.

Russian experts believe the blast was caused by a 10-ton meteor known as a bolide, which created a powerful shock wave when it reached the Earth's atmosphere, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) said in a statement. Scientists believe the bolide exploded and evaporated at a height of around 20 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface, but that small meteorite fragments may have reached the ground, the statement said.

The governor of the Chelyabinsk district reported that a search team had found an impact crater on the outskirts of a city about 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk. An official from the Interior Ministry told the Russian news agency Interfax that three large pieces of meteorite debris had been retrieved in the area.

Fiery meteors like this are not unusual, but they typically evaporate far above the surface of the earth, the RAS statement said. This meteor was unusual because it was so hard, and may have been made of iron, it said.

Video clips from Chelya-binsk showed an early morning sky illuminated by a brilliant flash, followed by the sound of breaking glass and multiple car alarms. Meteorites typically cause sonic booms as they enter the Earth's atmosphere. On Friday, the force was powerful enough to shatter dishes and televisions in people's homes.

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