A METEORITE that "flared spectacularly in the sky", then broke up over Russia's Ural Mountains, has reportedly injured more than 100 people.
Russia's interior ministry said 102 people required medical assistance after the incident, mainly for cuts caused by broken glass. It said fragments of the meteor had rained down on the sparsely populated Chelyabinsk region about 930 miles east of Moscow.
Some people sustained injuries when a 6000-square-foot section of the roof at a zinc factory collapsed, the ministry said. Unconfirmed reports from military sources said the meteorite was intercepted by Russian air defence forces, which reportedly used a missile to destroy it while it was still 20km up.
Amateur video shot today at 9.20am local time showed a trail of smoke hanging in a clear sky followed by a loud bang, The Guardian reports. Witnesses say the impact broke windows and was immediately followed by the sound of car alarms. Mobile phones in the area are working "intermittently".
"My windows were not smashed, but I first thought that my house is being dismantled, then I thought it was a UFO, and my eventual thought was an earthquake," a Chelyabinsk resident called Bukreeva Olga wrote on Twitter.
A Russian emergency official told Reuters the object was "definitely not a plane", although there are conflicting reports about whether the region had been struck by a meteor shower or a single meteor.
"Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain," the official said. "We have information about a blast at a 10,000 metre altitude. It is being verified."
The timing of the incident is intriguing, because a 50 metre-wide asteroid called 2012 DA14, is expected to pass the Earth at a distance of 17,000 miles this evening. While considered a "near miss" in astronomical terms, scientists say the asteroid will not strike the Earth and poses no threat to life.