A series of explosions in the skies of Russia’s Urals region, reportedly caused by a meteorite shower, has sparked panic in three major cities. Witnesses said that houses shuddered, windows were blown out and cellphones have stopped working.
According to unconfirmed reports, the meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk. A missile salvo reportedly blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers.
A bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia’s Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan.
Lifenews tabloid said that at least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to preliminary reports, it crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city's Internet and mobile service.
Witnesses said the explosion was so loud that it seemed like an earthquake and thunder had struck at the same time, and that there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Others reported seeing burning objects fall to earth.
Police in the Chelyabinsk region are reportedly on high alert, and have begun ‘Operation Fortress’ in order to protect vital infrastructure.
Office buildings in downtown Chelyabinsk are being evacuated. Injuries were reported at one of the city’s secondary schools, supposedly from smashed windows. No other injuries have been reported so far.
An emergency message published on the website of the Chelyabinsk regional authority urged residents to pick up their children from school and remain at home if possible. . . .
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