The TV grab shows an injured resident after a meteorite falling in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia, Feb. 15, 2013. Some 50 people have sought medical assistance after a meteorite burst into the sky over Russia's Urals region, the Interior Ministry said Friday. (Xinhua)
MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Some 500 people have been injured and many houses damaged as a meteor exploded over Russia's Urals region, local emergency services said Friday.
Most of the injuries were caused by shattered windows, according to the Interior Ministry.
Residents in the region have uploaded videos of a fireball cutting through the sky. The main impact happened 80 km from the town of Satki in Chelyabinsk region.
It hasn't been confirmed whether the damage was caused by the rock's impact or an airwave caused by its explosion in the lower layers of the atmosphere.
"What happened over the Urals region was not a meteor shower, as was reported earlier," Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Smirnykh told the Interfax news agency. "It was a single meteor which burned up as it passed through the lower layers of the Earth's atmosphere."
Hospitals in the affected region were ready to treat the injured, local authorities said.
Officials also ordered parents to pick up children from schools and daycare facilities.
Emergency teams were on alert in the regions of Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, Samara and Saratov, where meteorite pieces fell.
However, the authorities said the meteorite did not cause any major damage.
"There is no damage to heating, gas supply, energy grids. All systems work properly," Chelyabinsk deputy governor Sergei Komyakov told reporters.
He said the local authorities had undertaken necessary measures to repair broken windows, given temperatures in the region had dropped to minus 18 degrees.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said in a press release the accident caused no damage to the military units deployed in the Central Military District. "None of the personnel was injured," it said.
The rock could have weighed several dozens of tons, Sergei Smirnov, an expert from Pulkovo observatory, told the Russia-24 state TV channel.
"During the impact, such a huge body becomes disintegrated with the velocity of the fragments reaching several kilometers per second," he said.
Scientists from the Russian Academy of Science believe the meteorite could be an "advance guard" of the asteroid 2012 DA14, which is expected to bypass the Earth at an uncomfortably close distance of 27,000 km at 23:25 p.m. Moscow time (1925 GMT) on Friday.
If the asteroid was to hit the Earth, it would make a crater up to 1 km wide, astronomers said.
Russian emergency officials said they could not confirm that prediction.
"So far, we don't expect more meteor hits. We have not issued any advice for residents to stay at home and to stay away from the windows," a spokesperson of the Urals Emergency Ministry's department, was quoted by the Interfax as saying.
Last October, Russian rocket and space corporation Energia vowed to build a space rocket capable of destroying asteroids threatening the Earth.
So far, three asteroids have been discovered to have the potential to hit Earth in the next several decades.
The largest-ever meteorite impact with the Earth in written history occurred in 1908 in Russia's Siberia over Tunguska River, when a forest area was flattened by a slightly smaller asteroid, which exploded about five miles above ground.
MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- A meteorite burst into the sky over Russia's Urals region and burned up before landing, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Friday.
"What happened over the Urals region was not a meteor shower, as was reported earlier," ministry spokesperson Yelena Smirnykh told the Interfax news agency. "It was a meteorite which burned up as it passed through the lower layers of the Earth atmosphere." Full story