A meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, raining fireballs over a vast area and causing a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings and injured 1,200 people.
People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock wave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.
The meteorite, which weighed about 10 tonnes and may have been made of iron, entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (19-31 miles) above ground, according to Russia's Academy of Sciences.
The energy released when it entered the Earth's atmosphere was equivalent to a few kilotonnes, the academy said, the power of a small atomic weapon exploding.
No deaths were reported but the Emergencies Ministry said 20,000 rescue and clean-up workers were sent to the region after President Vladimir Putin told Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to ease the disruption and help the victims.
The Interior Ministry said about 1,200 people had been injured, at least 200 of them children, and most from shards of glass.
WINDOWS BLOWN OUT
The early-morning blast and ensuing shock wave blew out windows on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street, buckled some shop fronts, rattled apartment buildings in the city centre and blew out windows.
"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shock wave that smashed windows."
A wall and roof were badly damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said no environmental threat resulted.
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