Russia Meteor 2013: Damage cleanup continues

February 18, 2013 5:35:02 AM PST
Authorities in a Russian city say more than half of the acres of windows smashed in the city by an exploding meteor's shockwave have been replaced.

Friday's explosion, estimated to be equivalent to several atomic bombs, shattered glass in more than 4,000 buildings in Chelyabinsk and the surrounding region, leaving residents vulnerable in temperatures well below freezing.

About 1,200 people were injured, mostly by broken glass, with 40 still hospitalized Sunday, the ITAR-Tass news agency said, citing Emergency Ministry figures.

The Chelyabinsk city administration said in a Sunday statement that nearly 60 percent of the city's broken windows had been replaced.

Pieces of the meteor are believed to have fallen into an ice-covered lake about 80 kilometers (50 miles) outside the city, but no fragments have been reported found.

Researchers from the Urals Federal University, based in Yekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Chebarkul in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia are pieces of the meteor. A total of 53 pieces were brought to the university for analysis, the largest of which measured a centimeter in diameter, while the smallest was about one millimeter. Researchers have determined that the composition of the stones is typical of meteorites.

More than 1,000 people were injured last Friday after a meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains. Amateur video taken by a local resident, Sergey Hametov, showed smoke trail hanging in the sky followed by a loud crash and alarms going off. The video and information provided by Hametov were consistent with AP's own reporting of the event and with other videos depicting the same incident.

An Interior Ministry spokesman also said that about 600 square meters of a roof at a zinc factory had collapsed. There was no immediate clarification of whether the roof collapse was caused by meteorites or by a shockwave from one of the explosions. Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are travelling much faster than the speed of sound. The meteor - estimated to weigh 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 to 50 kilometres (18 to 32 miles) above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

The astonishing Friday morning event blew out windows in more than 4,000 buildings in the region, mostly in Chelyabinsk Russian police and officials were stationed at a frozen reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul on Saturday morning, the suspected landing site for meteor fragments. According to officials, the fragments left an eight-meter (26-foot) crater in the ice.

Regional officials believe the damage from the explosion could cost as much as $33 million dollars to repair.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.