Photos: Meteorite crashes into Russia, injuring hundreds
Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported residents on their way to work in the Chelyabinsk region heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave in the industrial city, east of Moscow.
Interior Ministry spokesman Vadim Kolesnikov said 1,200 people were reported injured in the Chelyabinsk region including as many as 159 children. Several were reported to be in "grave" condition with most people hurt by shattering glass.
Kolesnikov also said 6000 square feet of a roof at a zinc factory had collapsed. There was no immediate clarification of whether the collapse was caused by meteorites or by a shock wave from one of the explosions.
Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.
The national space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed that the object, weighing 10 tons, was a single meteor that was moving at 33,000 mph as it burned up on approach to Earth and disintegrated into smaller pieces.
President Vladimir Putin ordered emergencies officials to provide "immediate" assistance to people affected by the meteorite.
Gas supplies were cut off to hundreds of homes in the region as a safety precaution. An estimated 20,000 emergency response workers have been mobilized.
Chelyabinsk administration’s website said over 3,000 buildings were damaged to varying extents by the meteor shock wave in the city, including 34 medical facilities and 361 schools and kindergartens.
Background radiation levels reportedly remain unchanged. This was confirmed both by emergencies officials, and by the national nuclear agency, concerned because the area has a fair number of nuclear facilities.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said there was no link between the meteorite and the 2012 DA14 asteroid, which is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to Earth later on Friday at about 17,150 miles.
However, Tatiana Bordovitsina, an astronomy professor at Tomsk State University in western Siberia, said the meteorite could have been debris preceding the asteroid, but said a more thorough examination of the incident was needed.