Clean-up after meteor hits Russia

A Russian policeman works near an ice hole, said to be the point of impact of a meteor seen earlier in the Urals region, at lake Chebarkul yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

A Russian policeman works near an ice hole, said to be the point of impact of a meteor seen earlier in the Urals region, at lake Chebarkul yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Sat, Feb 16, 2013, 00:00

Thousands of Russian emergency workers today went out to clear up the damage from a meteor that exploded over the Ural mountains, damaging buildings, shattering windows and showering people with broken glass.

Divers searched a lake near the city of Chelyabinsk, where a hole several metres wide had opened in the ice, but had so far failed to find any large fragments, officials said.

The scarcity of evidence on the ground fuelled scores of conspiracy theories over what caused the fireball and its huge shockwave yesterday in the area which plays host to many defence industry plants.

Nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told reporters in Moscow it could have been "war-mongers" in the United States. "It's not meteors falling. It's a new weapon being tested by the Americans," he said.

A priest from near the explosion site called it an act of God. Social media sites were flooded with speculation about what might have caused the explosion, if not a meteorite.

"Honestly, I would be more inclined to believe that this was some military thing," said Oksana Trufanova, a local human rights activist.

Asked about the speculation, an official at the local branch of Russia's emergencies ministry simply replied: "Rubbish".

Residents of Chelyabinsk, an industrial city 1,500 km east of Moscow, heard an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave that blew out windows and damaged the wall and roof of a zinc plant.

A fireball travelling at a speed of 30km per second according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail visible as far as 200km away.

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