Moscow(ANN)A meteor plunge toward earth over Russia’s Ural Mountains Friday, exploding into flames in a powerful blast that damaged buildings in nearby areas, injuring around 1,100 people.
Amateur videos broadcast on state television showed an object streaking across the sky, trailing smoke, around 9:20 a.m. local time before bursting into a fireball. It caused a sonic boom from which residents in the city of Chelyabinsk, the largest in the affected region, described a shock wave that blew in doors, smashed glass and set off car alarms.
“The light was so intense that it completely illuminated the courtyard of our apartment block,” said Sergei Zakharov, head of the Russian Geographical Society in Chelyabinsk. “The sound, the shock wave came around six minutes later. No one could understand what had happened. I’d compare it to the explosion of a large flare bomb.”
Almost 1, 100 people sought medical attention, mostly for cuts from flying glass, and 43 were hospitalized, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. Around 3,000 buildings were damaged by the blast, which blew a hole in the walls of a metals factory in Chelyabinsk, approximately 900 miles east of Moscow.
Children were sent home from schools, and the explosion temporarily knocked out one mobile operator’s network.
The unusual sight sowed confusion among some locals. Amateur video showed children in one school streaming out of a classroom and screaming.
“That kind of light doesn’t happen in life, only at the end of the world,” Vlada Palagina, a Chelyabinsk schoolteacher, told the LifeNews website.
“We thought an airplane had crashed,” said a woman who answered the phone at the city administration.
Officials moved quickly to calm residents, saying there was no threat to human life from the rock fragments that hit the earth outside Chelyabinsk. Most of the meteor burned up before pieces hit the ground, scientists said.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the emergency situations minister to provide help for those affected.
“There’s no major destruction,” Chelyabinsk regional Governor Mikhail Yuyevich wrote on his blog. “The main task now is to maintain heat in the apartments and offices where the glass was smashed.”
Scientists said the incident was a rare event, both in terms of the size of the rock and the number of injuries it caused.
“There have been reports of one or two people being injured in the past. This is entirely unprecedented,” said Keith Smith, an astronomer at Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society.