Russia sends clean-up team to Meteorite hit Urals

BBC News Science and Environment
Russia sends clean-up team to meteoritehit Urals
The BBC's Daniel Sandford says people described a ball of fire in the sky
A big rescue and clean-up operation involving more than 9,000 workers is going on in the
Ural mountains following Friday's meteor strike, Russia's emergencies ministry says.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the operation to help some 1,200 people who were injured,
including 200 children, mostly by shattered glass.
The shockwave damaged an estimated 200,000 sq m (50 acres) of windows.
Russian officials put the cost of the damage at about 1bn roubles ($33m).
Power of small atomic weapon
A fireball had streaked through the sky on Friday, followed by loud bangs.
A large fragment was thought to have landed in a frozen lake near Chebarkul, a town in the
Chelyabinsk region. A Russian army spokesman said a crater 6m (20ft) wide had been
found there.
“A huge line of smoke, like you get from a plane but many times bigger” Sergei Serskov
Chelyabinsk resident
However, a group of six divers inspected the bottom of the lake on Saturday and discovered
no fragments amid the sludge.
It's thought the search for the meteorite will be delayed until the ice melts in the spring.
Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said there was no confirmation yet that any
fragments had been found across the region.
Mr Puchkov toured Chelyabinsk city on Saturday to assess the damage.
He said: "We have a special team working... that is now assessing the seismic stability of
buildings. We will be especially careful about switching the gas back on."
More than 9,000 people are working to clear up the damage in the Chelyabinsk region. Most
are locals, but some 1,800 people came from neighbouring regions.
Mr Putin said he had thanked God that no big fragments of the 10-tonne meteor - which was
thought to be made of iron and travelling at some 30 km (19 miles) per second - had fallen in
populated areas.
It had entered the Earth's atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (20-30 miles) above
ground, according to Russia's Academy of Sciences, releasing several kilotons of energy the equivalent of a small atomic weapon.
The emergencies ministry urged calm, saying background radiation levels were normal after
what it described as a "meteorite shower in the form of fireballs".
Some 50 people remain in hospital for treatment - mainly for cuts and bruises from shattered
'Little explosions'
The Chelyabinsk region, about 1,500km east of Moscow, is home to many factories, a
nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre.
The shockwave blew out windows in more than 4,000 buildings in the region.
Regional governor Mikhail Yurevich said damage was estimated at 1bn roubles but
dismissed as a "journalistic spoof" reports in Russian media that people had deliberately
shattered windows to claim on meteorite-related insurance.
Many children were in classrooms when the meteor fell at around 09:20 (03:20 GMT).
Video posted online showed frightened, screaming youngsters at one Chelyabinsk school,
where corridors were littered with broken glass.
Chelyabinsk resident Sergei Serskov told BBC News the city had felt like a "war zone" for 20
to 30 minutes.
"I was in the office when suddenly I saw a really bright flash in the window in front of me," he
Footage shows an icy lake near Chebarkul, where police say part of the meteor landed
"Then I smelt fumes. I looked out the window and saw a huge line of smoke, like you get
from a plane but many times bigger."
"A few minutes later the window suddenly came open and there was a huge explosion,
followed by lots of little explosions."
Scientists have played down suggestions that there is any link between the event in the
Urals and 2012 DA14, an asteroid which raced past the Earth later on Friday at a distance of
just 27,700km (17,200 miles) - the closest ever for an object of that size.
Such meteor strikes are rare in Russia but one is thought to have devastated an area of
more than 2,000 sq km (770 sq m) in Siberia in 1908.
Asteroids, meteors and meteorites
Asteroids are small bodies that orbit the Sun as the Earth does
Larger asteroids are called planetoids or minor planets, smaller ones often called
Once any of these enters our planet's atmosphere, it becomes a meteor
Many meteors break into pieces or burn up entirely as they speed through the
Once meteors or fragments actually hits the earth, they become meteorites
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