Almost 1000 injured as 10-ton meteor blasts across Russian sky, causing explosions and smashing windows

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Many of those wounded, 67 of whom are children, were hurt by broken glass caused by shockwaves and hurtling debris

Moscow

Nearly 1000 people were injured and 3,000 buildings damaged after a 10-ton meteor that entered the earth’s atmosphere at 33,000mph ripped across the sky above Russia’s Ural Mountains this morning.

Many of those wounded in the city of Chelyabinsk, 900 miles east of Moscow, were hit by broken glass when the shockwave smashed thousands of windows. At least 31 people were reported to be seriously injured and close to 200 children were among those hurt. Army units were scrambled to locate the debris and found two fragments of the meteor 50 miles to the west on the shore of a lake near Chebarkul,  one of which had left a crater 6 metres wide. A third segment struck near Zlatoust, about 50 miles to the north-west.

Witnesses described a scenes of panic as pedestrians were thrown to the ground when the blast struck at 9.22am local time. A student from School No 461 in Chelyabinsk, where several pupils were injured, said: “Everything went very bright. There was a very loud sound like the roar of an aeroplane, then an explosion and glass rained down.”

 Another resident described seeing a “terrible burst of scarlet and orange light. My eyes still hurt... the shock wave knock the glass out of the neighbouring houses. I turned out the light, sat the children on the sofa and waited…my God...I thought war had started.”

Eyewitness reports were confirmed by video footage from drivers’ dashboard cameras – a common precaution used by many drivers against corrupt traffic police – which showed the blazing trail in the sky.

Schools were closed and 20,000 emergency personnel were deployed to the region yesterday as a massive clean-up operation got underway. While no deaths were reported, the number of injured rapidly climbed  and by early evening Chelyabinsk’s health department confirmed 985 people had sought treatment. Last night those who were able were attempting to patch up their windows against the bitter cold. The daytime temperature was minus 9C and the authorities were fearful of fatalities, especially as it was not apparent whether the blast had damaged the city’s centralised heating system which pipes hot water from power stations to homes.

Valery Shuvalov, a scientist at Russia’s Institute of Geosphere Dynamics, said: “The meteor was destroyed in the atmosphere and the cloud of fragments flew off, creating a shock wave...Much of the material has evaporated, the remaining pieces fell to earth.”

“The blasts, of which there were three, were preceded by a bright flash with a temperature I would estimate at more than 2,500 degrees centigrade,” Sergei Zakharov, the head of the regional section of the Russian Geographic Society, said.

 Despite scientists confirming the incident as a meteor strike, the Russian Army was put on high alert as nationalist politicians suggested a shadowy foreign power could have been at work. Vladimir Zhirinkovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, lost no time in accusing the Americans of “testing a new weapon” against Russia.

The Chelyabinsk region is home to key parts of Russia’s civilian and military nuclear industry including Mayak, a former plutonium factory now used as a waste processing facility that saw one of the world’s worst ever nuclear accidents in 1957.

 Rosatom, the national nuclear energy monopoly, said that its facilities in the region were unaffected by the blast and “working normally,” while Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said radiation was at “normal levels” after the incident.

The Emergency Situations ministry has ruled out any danger of radioactive pollution, but warned people not to approach or touch pieces of meteor in case there is “toxic contamination.”

That hasn’t stopped several enterprising locals for seeking to capitalize on the region’s new found fame, however. But Friday afternoon at least two people were offering what they claimed were genuine “Chelyabinsk meteor” fragments on the jewelry section of a Russian online trading site.

“Alexei” who claimed to be from Magnitogorsk in the region’s south, said he wanted 500 rubles (about £10) for a two centimeter fragment that he “had no use for.” “It’s a little scratched, but otherwise in excellent condition,” he wrote.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'