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Published on Feb 15, 2013
A series of explosions in the skies of Russia's Urals region, reportedly caused by a meteorite shower, has sparked panic in three major cities. Witnesses said that houses shuddered, windows were blown out and cellphones have stopped working.
According to unconfirmed reports, the meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk. A missile salvo reportedly blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers.
A meteorite is a solid piece of debris from space objects such as asteroids or comets, ranging in size from tiny to gigantic.
When a meteorite falls on Earth, passing through the atmosphere causes it to heat up and emit a trail of light, forming a fireball known as a meteor, or shooting or falling star.
A bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia's Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan.
Up to 150 people sought medical attention as a result of the incident, according to the Russian Interior Ministry. No serious injuries have been reported, with most of the injuries caused by broken glass and minor concussions.
Lifenews tabloid said that at least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to preliminary reports, it crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city's Internet and mobile service.
The Emergency Ministry reported that 20,000 rescue workers are operating in the region. Three aircraft were deployed to survey the area and locate other possible impact locations. Witnesses said the explosion was so loud that it seemed like an earthquake and thunder had struck at the same time, and that there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Others reported seeing burning objects fall to earth. Meteorite crash in Russia: UFO fears spark panic in the Urals A series of explosions in the skies of Russia's Urals region, reportedly caused by a meteorite shower, has sparked panic in three major cities. Witnesses said that houses shuddered, windows were blown out and cellphones have stopped working. Meteorite crash in Russia: UFO fears spark panic in the Urals Another Tunguska event?
The incident in Chelyabinsk bears a strong resemblance to the 1908 Tunguska event -- an exceptionally powerful explosion in Siberia believed to have been caused by a fragment of a comet or meteor.
According to estimates, the energy of the Tunguska blast may have been as high as 50 megatons of TNT, equal to a nuclear explosion. Some 80 million trees were leveled over a 2,000-square-kilometer area. The Tunguska blast remains one of the most mysterious events in history, prompting a wide array of hypotheses on its cause, including a black hole passing through Earth and the wreck of an alien spacecraft.