Russia's meteor-hit region begins clean-up

Yesterday's blast was estimated to be as powerful as 20 Hiroshima bombs

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The Independent Online

Volunteers have mobilised and crews from glass companies have been flown in as the Russian region hit by yesterday's spectacular meteor explosion begins the repair job.

Around 1,200 people were injured, mostly by projectile shards of glass. And more than 4,000 buildings over 50 acres in the Chelyabinsk region had windows smashed in by the impact, estimated to have been as powerful as 20 Hiroshima bombs.

State news agency RIA Novosti cited the regional health ministry as saying 40 of the injured remained in hospital today, two of them in a serious condition.

Regional governor Mikhail Yurevich said damage from the high-altitude explosion is estimated at 1 billion rubles ($33 million), and promised to have all the broken windows replaced within a week.

But with temperatures as low as -12C, many have boarded up and put plastic sheeting across their smashed windows to stave off cold.

More than 24,000 people, including volunteers, have mobilized in the region to cover windows, gather warm clothes and food and make other relief efforts, the regional governor's office said. Crews from glass companies in adjacent regions were being flown in.

In the town of Chebarkul, 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk city, divers explored the bottom of an ice-crusted lake looking for meteor fragments believed to have fallen there, leaving a six metre wide hole.

Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius told Russian news agencies the search hadn't found anything.

Valery Fomichov, who was jogging when the meteor tore across the sky, said: "I glanced up and saw a glowing dot in the west. And it got bigger and bigger, like a soccer ball, until it became blindingly white and I turned away."

In Chelyabinsk, university student Ksenia Arslanova said she was pleased that people in the city of 1 million generally behaved well after the bewildering flash and explosions.

"People were kind of ironic about it. And that's a good thing, that people didn't run to the grocery store. Everyone was calm," the 19-year-old architecture student said.

"I'm proud that our city didn't fall into depression."