A meteor exploded over Russia’s Urals region at 9:20 AM local time, lighting up the morning sky with a fireball and bright trail of debris as shock waves shook buildings, smashed windows, set off car alarms, and disrupted mobile phone service.
More than 500 persons have sought treatment for injuries, mostly from broken glass and minor concussions. More than 100 have reportedly been hospitalized.
As many as 300 structures may have been damaged.
Early estimates suggest the meteor, traveling at 54,000 kph (33,000 mph), weighed approximately 10 tons and began to break apart at an altitude of 30-55 km. Up to nine explosions and shockwaves resulted as the meteor passed over several major cities, including Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg and Tyumen.
On the ground in Chelyabinsk, police have reported three possible impact sites, and Russian military sources claim to have discovered a 6-meter crater.
This morning’s meteor arrived hours before asteroid 2012 DA14 is scheduled to make an unusually close encounter with Earth, but experts at the European Space Agency have confirmed that the two events are unrelated.