1,100 injured by meteorite in Russian Urals

MOSCOW - A thick white contrail, an intense flash and sharp explosions marked the passage of a meteor across the sky above Russia's Ural Mountains, where 1,100 people have reported injuries, many from broken glass.

The Emergency Ministry says fragments of the meteorite fell in a thinly populated area of the Chelyabinsk region. And about 6000 square feet of a roof at a zinc factory collapsed.

Reports conflicted on what exactly happened in the clear skies. A spokeswoman for the Emergency Ministry, Irina Rossius, told The Associated Press that there was a meteor shower, but another ministry spokeswoman, Elena Smirnikh, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was a single meteorite.

Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time (0320 GMT), leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.

The ministry said some fragments fell near the town of Satka, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the regional capital city of Chelyabinsk.

Scientists say the meteor released several kilotons of energy above the region. They say it was probably about six and a half feet across, about the size of an SUV.

"Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain," an emergency official told RIA-Novosti. "We have information about a blast at 10,000-meter (32,800-foot) altitude. It is being verified."

City officials say the shock wave blew in an estimated one million square feet of glass. They say 3,000 buildings in the city were damaged. At a zinc factory, part of the roof collapsed.

There's no word of any deaths, or anyone struck by fragments of the meteor.

RT.com (Russia Today) claimed Russian air defenses shot the meteor down, according to "unconfirmed reports."

YouTube video shot in Russia:

Click here for other YouTube videos being posted.

--What's the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?

Meteors are pieces of space rock, usually from larger comets or asteroids, which enter the Earth's atmosphere. Many are burned up by the heat of the atmosphere, but those that survive and strike the Earth are called meteorites. They often hit the ground at tremendous speed -- up to 30,000 kilometers an hour (18,642 mph) according to the European Space Agency. That releases a huge amount of force.

--How common are meteorite strikes?

Experts say smaller strikes happen five to 10 times a year. Large impacts such as the one Friday in Russia are rarer but still occur about every five years, according to Addi Bischoff, a mineralogist at the University of Muenster in Germany. Most of these strikes happen in uninhabited areas where they don't cause injuries to humans.

--What caused the damage in Russia?

Alan Harris, a senior scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, said most of the damage would have been caused by the explosion of the meteor as it broke up in the atmosphere. The explosion caused a shockwave that sent windows and loose objects flying through the air in a radius of several kilometers. By the time the remaining fragments hit the ground they would have been too small to cause significant damage far from the site of impact, he said.

Print this article Back to Top