In perhaps the oddest news of the day, workers in the Chelyabinsk region in the Russian Urals were greeted this morning with a spectacular show: an exploding meteor. Bloomberg reports "A meteor exploded in the skies above Russia’s Urals region and sent shock waves that shattered windows, hurting hundreds of people, hours before an asteroid half the size of a football field hurtles past the Earth. The meteor broke apart above the Chelyabinsk region at about 7:25 a.m. Moscow time, the Emergencies Ministry’s division in the Urals district said today on its website. “A serious meteor fell,” billionaire Sergey Galitskiy, chief executive officer of OAO Magnit, Russia’s biggest food retailer by value, said in a post on his Twitter Inc. account. “At our hypermarket in Emanzhelinsk, windows were blown out, the roof shook, there was a strong shock wave.” More than 290 people reported injuries, according to the website of Chelyabinsk Region Governor Mikhail Yurevich. The number may be higher than 500, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified Interior Ministry official."
People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.
A fireball blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phone networks were interrupted.
"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.
"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he said.
No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.
A local ministry official said such incidents were extremely rare and Friday's events might have been linked to an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool due to pass Earth at a distance of 27,520 km (17,100 miles) but this was not confirmed.
Russia's space agency Roscosmos said the meteorite was travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second and that such events were hard to predict. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion had caused a sonic boom.
Russia's Emergencies Ministry said 514 people had sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass, and that 112 of those were kept in hospital. Search groups were set up to look for the remains of the meteorite.
Unlike the Tunguska meteor of 1908 Siberia fame, there was no actual land collision: "The meteorite may have fallen into a body of water about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the city of Chebarkul, national television channel Rossiya 24 reported. The meteorite may have weighed 1 kilogram, according to the television company’s website. As many as 20,000 emergency staff and three aircraft have been deployed in the Urals region, the ministry said."
Sentiment on the ground that this is nothing but a crashing UFO was promptly squashed by the government, and moments ago the emergency minister denied a report that the meteorite was shot down by Russian military.
And in these days of the ubiquitous video smartphones, there were many video capturing this meteor in teal time.
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