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Friday, February 15, 2013

Over 500 injured as 10-ton meteorite hits Russia


More than 500 people, including 84 children, were injured when a meteorite shower rained down on three regions of Russia, and neighbouring Kazakhstan, officials said Friday. The size of this meteor is estimated at 10 tons according to Russia's Academy of Sciences.

According to Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, 514 people have sought medical attention in the disaster area, 112 of whom have been hospitalised, with three in a "grave" condition.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum going on in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region, called the meteorite "a symbol of the forum".

"I hope that there will be no serious consequences, but it is a demonstration that it is not only the economy that is vulnerable, but our planet as well," he said.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said there was no link between the meteorite and the 2012 DA14 asteroid which is due to pass close by the Earth Friday.

Russian space agency Roskosmos has confirmed the object that crashed in the Chelyabinsk region is a meteorite. They said in a statement "According to preliminary estimates, this space object is of non-technogenic origin and qualifies as a meteorite. It was moving at a low trajectory with a speed of about 30 km/s."

Russian Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust.

The Russian Army has joined the rescue operation. Army units are searching for meteorite debris in several places in Chelyabinsk region and in the neighbouring Tyumen region.

The Emergency Ministry reported that 20,000 rescue workers are operating in the region. Three aircraft were deployed to survey the area and locate other possible impact locations.
Radiation, chemical and biological protection units have been put on high alert in the area. As the explosion has occurred several kilometers above ground, a large ground area has to be thoroughly checked for radiation and other threats.
Witnesses in Chelyabinsk reported hearing a huge blast early in the morning and feeling a shock wave in a 19-storey building in the town center.

The residents in the region also reported occurrences like shaking ground, windows being shattered and car alarms being set off during the shower.

Meanwhile, South Ural State University cancelled classes for at least two days due to damage to its buildings.

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