NEARLY 1,000 people have been injured by a meteor that exploded in the sky over Russia’s Ural mountains, blasting out countless windows.
Chelyabinsk health chief Marina Moskvicheva, said 985 people in her city had asked for medical assistance. Forty-three were taken to hospital.
The meteor – estimated to be about 10 tons – entered the Earth’s atmosphere going at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph). It shattered about 30-50 kilometres (18-32 miles) above the ground, releasing several kilotons of energy, the Russian Academy of Sciences said.
Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.
“There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people’s houses to check if they were OK,” said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, about 1,500 kms (930 miles) east of Moscow, the biggest city in the affected region.
“We saw a big burst of light then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound,” he said.
The meteor released several kilotons of energy above the region, the science academy said. The shock wave blew in an estimated 100,000 square metres (more than one million square feet) of glass, according to city officials.
The meteor hit less than a day before Asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth - about 17,150 miles (28,000 kms). But the European Space Agency in a tweet said its experts found there was no connection - just cosmic coincidence.
Some fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Cherbakul, the regional governor’s office said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.