Russian Meteor Fall Injures Hundreds
February 15, 2013
Officials says hundreds of people have sought medical assistance in central Russia's Ural Mountains after a meteor burned up in the lower atmosphere, unleashing a shock wave that shattered windows and otherwise damaged buildings in the area.
News agencies quoted regional Governor Mikhail Yurevich as saying some 950 people were injured. Health officials said more than 40 people were hospitalized.
"We have treated people mainly with incised and contused wounds, all due to shattered windows and broken window frames," Vladimir Basmannikov, a surgeon at a hospital in the city of Chelyabinsk, said. "Look how many people we have here. We've already treated 60 or 70 people and we still have a corridor full of people."
Amateur videos showed the meteor streaking across the sky on the morning of February 15, with a trail of smoke and an intense flash of light.
According to Russia's national space agency, the meteor moved at a speed of 30 kilometers per second.
Some meteorites -- fragments of the meteor -- landed in a thinly populated part of the region, located on the eastern edge of the Urals, and neighboring Kazakhstan.
'No Nuclear Threat'
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin instructed the Emergency Situations Ministry to provide urgent assistance to people in affected areas.
"Everything must be done to assess the damage objectively. I spoke to the leadership of Chelyabinsk Oblast just half an hour ago. People are working," Putin said.
"Thank God no large objects fell in populated areas, however there were still people who were injured. We need to think about how to help people -- not just to think about it but do it immediately."
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said some 20,000 rescue workers have been dispatched to the area to provide help to the injured.
The Chelyabinsk region is home to many factories, including a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic-waste storage facility.
Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia's nuclear agency, Rosatom, said the operation of its facilities across the region remained unaffected.
He added that the radiation levels in the region also did not change.
"The Rosatom state corporation has six major [nuclear] facilities in the Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk regions. All of them are working without any change, according to the regular schedule," Novikov said. "The meteorite shower has not affected the functioning of these facilities or public services in any way."
Experts suggested there was no connection between the meteor in the Chelyabinsk region and the asteroid 2012 DA 14, which was expected to bypass the Earth later in the day.
The asteroid, about 50 meters in diameter, was expected to zoom past Earth in what scientists are calling the closest observed flyby ever by an object this large.
The asteroid was expected to be at its closest to Earth at approximately 2024 Prague time when it is passing over the Indian Ocean off Sumatra. The best places to view the asteroid will be Eastern Europe, Australia, and Asia.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, Rian.ru, AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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