Day after meteorite hit, recovery efforts begin in Russia

A small army of workers set to work Saturday to replace the estimated 200,000 sq m of windows shattered by the shock wave from a meteor that exploded over Russia's Chelyabinsk region.

The astonishing Friday morning event blew out windows in more than 4,000 buildings in the region, mostly in the capital city of the same name and injured some 1,200 people, largely with cuts from the flying glass. Fifteen of the injured remained hospitalised on Saturday, one of them in a coma, the regional health ministry said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Regional Governor Mikhail Yurevich on Saturday said damage from the high-altitude explosion — estimated to have the force of 20 atomic bombs — is estimated at 1 billion rubles ($33 million). He promised to have all the broken windows replaced within a week.

But that is a long wait in a frigid region. The midday temperature in Chelyabinsk was -120 C , and for many the immediate task was to put up plastic sheeting and boards on shattered residential windows.

More than 24,000 people, including volunteers, have mobilised in the region to cover windows, gather warm clothes and food and make other relief efforts, the regional governor's office said. Crews from glass companies in adjacent regions were being flown in.

In Chebarkul, 80 km west of Chelyabinsk city, divers explored the bottom of an ice-crusted lake looking for meteor fragments believed to have fallen there, leaving a 20-foot-wide hole. Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius said the search hadn't found anything.

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