Meteorite Fragments Injure Hundreds in Central Russia
MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) – A hail of meteorite fragments has injured hundreds of people in central Russia, health officials confirmed on Friday.
As of mid-day Moscow time, as many as 725 people had sought medical assistance in the hard-hit Chelyabinsk Region as a result of the strikes, including as many as 159 children, various officials said. Figures on hospitalization in the region varied significantly, from 34 to 112, with several reported to be in “grave” condition. Most people were hurt by shattering glass.[…]
Background radiation levels reportedly remain unchanged. This was confirmed both by emergencies officials, and by the national nuclear agency, concerned because the area has a fair number of nuclear facilities. Reports about whether this was one large meteorite or many smaller ones initially varied, but the national space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed by early afternoon that the object had been a single meteorite, a report given earlier by emergency officials. “Verified information indicates that this was one meteorite which burned up as it approached Earth and disintegrated into smaller pieces,” deputy head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry press office, Elena Smirnykh, said. Roscosmos stated the meteorite had been moving at a speed of 30 km per second. Officials are trying to determine where the fragments have landed. Emergency officials in west Kazakhstan said they were searching for two unidentified objects that fell in the country’s Aktobe region.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said there was no link between the meteorite and the 2012 DA14 asteroid which is due to pass close by the Earth later on Friday.
However, Tatiana Bordovitsina, an astronomy professor at Tomsk State University in western Siberia, told RIA Novosti two hours before the ESA statement that the meteorite could have been debris preceding the asteroid, but said a more thorough examination of the incident was needed.