The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 15, 2013

Meteor explodes over Russia, nearly 1,000 injured

— MOSCOW (AP) — A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring nearly 1,000 people.

The spectacle deeply frightened many Russians, with some elderly women declaring that the world was coming to an end.

The meteor — estimated to be about 10 tons — entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered into pieces about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time, just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.

The meteor released several kilotons of energy above the Chelyabinsk region, the science academy said. The shock wave blew in an estimated 100,000 square meters (more than 1 million square feet) of glass, according to city officials.

"There was panic. People had no idea what was happening," said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, a city of 1 million about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow.

"We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud, thundering sound," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

The meteor hit less than a day before Asteroid 2012DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth — about 17,150 miles (28,000 kilometers). But the European Space Agency in a tweet said its experts had determined there was no connection — just cosmic coincidence.

The Interior Ministry said 985 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 44 of them were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, it said.

There was no immediate word on any deaths or anyone struck by space fragments.

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