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article imageMeteorite crashed across Chelyabinsk region of Russia (videos)

By Anne Sewell     Feb 15, 2013 in World
Chelyabinsk - Witnesses in Russia's Urals region panicked when a series of explosions and bright flashes hit the sky. Initial reports said a meteorite may have been blown to pieces by a missile, but this is not the case. More than 1,000 people have been injured.
As can be seen in the video a bright flash seared the sky above the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia’s Republic of Bashkiria and also in northern Kazakhstan.
The streak across the sky could apparently be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away in Yekaterinburg.
Viktor Prokofiev, a 36-year-old resident of Yakaterinburg in the Urals Mountains witnessed the incident. He said, "I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day."
"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he added.
According to witnesses on the scene, the explosion was so loud, it sounded like an earthquake and thunder combined and there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Other witnesses reported seeing burning objects falling to earth. According to witnesses, houses shuddered and windows were blown out by the explosion.
According to RT unconfirmed reports are stating that a meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit in the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk and was blown to pieces by a missile salvo before it could hit the earth in one piece. However, this was later debunked (see updates below).
However, Reuters is reporting that the Emergencies Ministry described the incident as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs." According to authorities, the blast had been heard at an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,800 feet), which reportedly signaled that it occurred when the meteorite entered Earth's atmosphere.
The Russian Interior Ministry states hundreds of people had to seek medical attention, but that most of the injuries with minor and were caused by broken glass and minor concussions.
Reportedly at least one piece of the fallen meteorite has crashed into a wall near a zinc factory in Chelyabinsk, which is disrupting the city's mobile and Internet service.
The Emergency Ministry has stated that there are 20,000 rescue workers operating in the region and three aircraft have been deployed to survey the area and seek other possible impact locations.
Authorities have evacuated office building in downtown Chelyabinsk and parents have been asked to collect their children from school and remain at home.
Officials believed at one stage that this incident may be connected to asteroid 2012 DA14, measuring 45 to 95 meters in diameter, that will be passing by Earth on Friday at a record close range of 27,000 kilometers at around 19:25 GMT. However, this was later debunked (see updates below).
Apparently this kind of incident is rare in the region, but residents did think back on what was called the "Tunguska event" which occurred on June 30, 1908, when an enormously powerful explosion struck the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. This was believed to have been caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5–10 kilometers (3–6 mi) above the Earth's surface.
Dramatic CCTV: Meteorite blast wave blows out doors, windows in Russia
The Russian military has reportedly discovered a 6-meter crater from the meteorite. The site has been closed off by military units wearing special protective suits.
"8 out of 43 municipalities have considerably suffered from the fall of space debris, 3 are in state of emergency," Emergency Ministry spokesperson Igor Murog said.
At least 297 apartment buildings were damaged from the meteorite fall in the Chelyabinsk region.
People are already trying to sell pieces of the meteorite online.
Around 723 persons have requested medical assistance in the region including 84 children. 16 people have been hospitalized.
Officials have closed all universities, schools and kindergartens in Chelyabinsk for two days.
According to Sergey Smirnov of the Pulkovo Observatory, there is a high chance that another meteorite could enter the Earth’s atmosphere in the next few hours.
Valeriy Shuvalov of the Institute of Geosphere Dynamics told RIA-Novosti:
"The object could be about a meter in diameter and weigh a few tons. As it entered the atmosphere, it broke into a cloud of pieces that flew on, creating a blast wave and emitting light. That's where the flashes came from, as well as broken windows. Most of the object’s material evaporated, the remaining pieces slowed down and fell. It was most likely of iron nature as it penetrated so far through the atmosphere. However, we still don't have the exact data on the debris."
There is, apparently, no relationship between this meteorite and the 2012 DA14 asteroid expected to pass close to earth later on Friday.
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