A meteor crashed into a community in Russia's Ural mountains earlier today, injuring at least 950 people, according to the BBC. The meteor didn't strike the community directly - it landed in a nearby lake - but the shockwave itself caused damaged to buildings and smashed windows. Most of the people affected suffered only cuts and bruises, though about 46 are still hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Pictured: In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia, provided by Nasha Gazeta newspaper, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 a meteorite contrail is seen. (AP Photo/Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz)
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"Chelyabinsk Region suffered the greatest damage," said Russian Minister of Civil Defence Vladimir Puchkov in a statement. "The impact wave and blast damaged around 297 homes, 12 schools, a number of other social facilities, and some industrial sites."
"An operations group numbering more than 20,000 people is at work now," he continued. "with 3,000 pieces of equipment and 8 aircraft at their disposal. Our priority task is to get practical help to the people in the disaster zone and ensure they have all the essentials for life."
Not everyone in Russia is convinced that this was a meteor, however. According to the Russia Times, Liberal-Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has blamed the explosion on U.S. weapons tests. Mr. Zhirinovsky is "a politician well-known for making similar eccentric statements," according to the Russia Times.
The meteor strike happened on the same day that near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 will make a close flyby of Earth. So close, in fact, that it will be inside the orbit of some telecommunications satellites. NASA is monitoring the asteroids path and has confirmed that there is no chance that the asteroid will strike the planet. 2012 DA14 will be at its closest to Earth at 2:25pm EST.
I'll admit that the first thing that came to mind when I heard about this strike were the scenes in Armageddon where meteors managed to strike major national monuments as a precursor to the asteroid that threatened to wipe out the planet. However, the Washington Post has cited the European Space Agency as confirming that the meteor strike in Russia and 2012 DA14 are not related.
SOURCE: Alex Knapp