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Meteor falls in Russia, 1000 injured

A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tonnes (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 1,000 people and frightened countless more.

The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the meteor over the Chelyabinsk region entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 kilometres (18-32 miles) above ground.

The fall caused explosions that broke glass over a wide area. The Emergency Ministry says 985 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 44 of them were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass.

"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 1500 kilometres (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 told The Associated Press by telephone.

Another Chelyabinsk resident, Valya Kazakov, said some elderly women in his neighbourhood started crying out that the world was ending.

Some fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Cherbakul, the regional governor's office said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. It was not immediately clear if any people were struck by fragments.

The agency also cited military spokesman Yarslavl Roshupkin as saying that a six-meter-wide (20-foot-wide) crater was found in the same area which could be the result of fragments striking the ground.

Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are travelling much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.

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The Canadian Press


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