News / Europe

Meteor Causes Panic in Russia

Russian officials say a meteor hit in the Chelyabinsk region, near the country’s Ural Mountains, setting off blasts that injured more than 750 people, mainly by broken glass.

Differences Between Space Objects

  • Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky object orbiting the Sun
  • Comet:  A relatively small object whose ice can vaporize in sunlight to create an atmosphere of dust and gas, and sometimes form a tail
  • Meteor: A piece of space rock -- often from an asteroid or comet -- that enters the Earth's atmosphere.  Many burn up due to the friction and heat
  • Meteorite: A meteor that survives its journey through the Earth's atmosphere and strikes the Earth's surface
Witnesses describe objects that look like burning rocks racing across the sky for hundreds of kilometers, leaving a long, white vapor trail in their wake. The sonic boom and shock that followed early Friday shattered windows and set off car alarms.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said the meteor exploded over the sparsely populated region east of the Ural Mountains.

Hundreds of people ended up in the hospital for minor injuries due to flying debris, mostly glass.

"The wounds that people have received are mainly from windows and window frames breaking and flying around," said Vladimir Basmanikov, a surgeon at Hospital Number One in Chelyabinsk. He says his hospital had treated 60 or 70 people but that many more needed to be treated.

No fatalities were reported, but at least four people are listed in critical condition.

Amateur video purportedly showing meteor passing over Chelyabinsk region


Local authorities said a wall and the roof of a Chelyabinsk zinc factory were damaged in the blast. Vladimir Stepanov, a representative for Russia's emergency response service, said emergency teams were already in the area.

Chelyabinsk, Russia meteor blastChelyabinsk, Russia meteor blast
Chelyabinsk, Russia meteor blast
Chelyabinsk, Russia meteor blast
"All emergency forces and facilities were switched to high readiness mode," Stepanov said. "That's over 20,000 people, who started an investigation of the territory, to review the situation. As of 10:30 (0430 GMT), as a result of the study, it was revealed that background radiation in the territory was normal. The systems and structures in energy, communications, transport and life maintenance sectors are functioning."

Rare occurence

[The planetary science director at the U.S. space agency, NASA, says the huge meteor was an "exception."

Jim Green says "fireballs" of this kind happen on a daily basis, but most of them are not seen because they fall over the ocean or in remote areas.]

A massive meteorite strike is believed to have devastated more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest in Siberia in 1908. The site of Friday's meteor strike is about 5,000 kilometers west of Tungusta, where the 1908 meteor hit with the force of a thermonuclear bomb.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, was immediately informed of the incident in Chelyabinsk, as was Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The Associated Press quoted the Russian Academy Sciences as saying the meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph and broke into pieces about 30 to 50 kilometers above the ground.

Intercept technology

Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Friday's meteor strike showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space. "At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies," Rogozin told Interfax.

The meteor hit just hours before an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 is set to have a close encounter with Earth.  The U.S. space agency NASA says the 45-meter-wide asteroid could come as close as  27,000 kilometers above Earth. The agency insists, however, the asteroid is not in danger of crashing to Earth.

The European Space Agency in its Twitter feed says the meteor above Russia Friday has no connection with the asteroid.

Photo Gallery

  • The meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk, February 15, 2013. Photo provided by
  • Workers repair a power line near the wall of a local zinc plant which was damaged by a shockwave from a meteor in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 15, 2013.
  • Debris is shown in the Chelyabinsk region, February 15, 2013. Photo provided by
  • The meteorite contrail is seen over the village of Bolshoe Sidelnikovo, February 15, 2013.
  • The meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk, February 15, 2013. Photo provided by
  • People stand near a six-meter hole in the ice of a frozen lake, the site of a meteor fall, outside the town of Chebakul in the Chelyabinsk region. Photo: Chelyabinsk Region Police Department
  • Trees in Russia were burned down by the Tunguska meteoroid event in 1908, which was caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5-10 kilometers above the Earth's surface.
  • A minivan passes a zinc factory building with about 600 square meters of its roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk, a result of the shockwave from the meteor.
  • A woman cleans away glass debris from a window after the meteorite explosion, February 15, 2013.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dmitry from: Russia, Chelyabinsk
February 15, 2013 11:42 AM
I'm from Russia, that same Chelyabinsk. At first, right after the outbreak of the incident for many took a plane crash, but after a series of bombings, it became clear that this is something different. above us, at an altitude of about 40 km meteorite exploded. where the blast shattered windows, where the whole frame. (blow was so strong that shuddered buildings). From shrapnel injured many people, children in kindergartens and schools. Where office workers got a ceiling, partially destroyed the building of a plant. Thousands of people were left with no windows in the winter at 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The incident should not cause laughter. Today we learned what a "meteorite"
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 16, 2013 11:43 AM
It must be icy in a building without windows there. God be with you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs