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article imageUPDATE: 1200 injured as meteors hit parts of Russia (Video)

By Greta McClain     Feb 15, 2013 in World
Chelyabinsk - Massive meteor fragments began raining out of the sky over parts of northeast Russia, damaging infrastructure in one city and injuring hundreds.
The Moscow based newspaper, Pravda, reports that a large meteor struck Urals, located approximately 1,800 km (1,100 miles) southeast of Moscow, around 9:22 a.m. local time (02:22 GMT). Witnesses report hearing loud explosions and seeing burning debris falling out of the sky. Initial reports were that a meteor shower struck Urals, however Yelena Smirnykh with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) later issued a corrections, saying:
"What happened over the Urals region was not a meteor shower, as was reported earlier. It was a meteorite, which burned up as it passed through the lower layers of the Earth atmosphere. However, it triggered an impact wave, which smashed windows in several houses in the region."
Current reports estimate that at least 112 people in Urals have been hospitalized due to injuries related to the meteor. TV3 News states three people have been hospitalized in a serious condition.
Vladimir Stepanov, chielf of EMERCOM, stated initial surveys show there were no major disruptions in Urals and that city functions were normal, saying:
“No serious consequences have been so far recorded. According to surveys, including by other ministries and departments, all the power and communications facilities are working normally. There has been no disruption in the rail and air transport work."
In Chelybinsk, a city approximately 427 km (265 miles) north of Urals, cellular communication was disrupted and one fragment from a large meteor struck the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant, destroying a portion of the building. Debris blocked traffic near the plant and a huge plume of smoke and dust could be seen overhead.
Another fragment hit the Tractor Plant, reportedly causing five explosions which shattered windows and damaged several nearby cars.
A partial evacuation of the downtown portion of the city was conducted and police issued a high alert "Fortress" plan according to Pravda. EMERCON reports they have three aircraft and around 20,000 personnel in the city surveying the damage.
Voice of Russia reports that 150 people have sought medical attention for non life threatening injuries. No fatalities have been reported at this time.
More than 500 people in the region are reported to be injuried. Irina Rossius, spokeswoman for EMERCOM, told the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS:
"All in all 514 people, including 82 children, have sought medical assistance, and 112 people have been hospitalized."
Smirnykh reports that falling glass and debris was responsible for the majority of injuries reported. She also stated that tests for increased radiation in the area show that radiation levels are still in the normal range.
One Chelyabinsk resident who captured one of the meteors on film, stated he thought the large flash he saw streaking across the sky looked like a nuclear glow, saying he thought a war had started. Others in the area speculated that a military fighter jet had crashed.
This video shows one of the meteors' trails before it crashes. Not knowing what was happening, people began to panic, fleeing buildings and running through the streets.
The meteors struck Russia less than 24 hours before 2012 DA14, an asteroid estimated to be approximately 45 meters in diameter, is expected to make the closest pass of the earth ever recorded. However, the European Space Agency (ESA) says the meteors are not debris from the asteroid. According to their Twitter post:
"ESA experts confirm *no* link between meteor incidents in Russia & Asteroid 2012DA14 Earth flyby of tonight".
UPDATE 5:21 p.m. CST
According to a Reuters report, officials with the Russian Interior Ministry has updated the number of people injured by the meteors, bringing the total to 1,200. At least 200 of the injured are children according to the report. No deaths have been reported.
The Russian Academy of Science stated the meteorite that hit Urals was made of iron and weighed approximately 10 metric tons (22046 pounds or 10000 kg).
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