Morning commuters in Russia got the surprise of their lives when a meteorite ripped through Earth’s atmosphere and landed in the Urals region early Friday, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Panic quickly spread throughout the region as car alarms went off and meteorite fragments showered over some areas.
The office of the national emergencies ministry made this statement:
A meteorite disintegrated above the Urals, partially burning up in the lower atmosphere. Fragments of the meteorite reached Earth, falling in sparsely populated areas in the Chelyabinsk region.
According to Newsday, the exploding space rock caused shock waves and sonic booms to shatter windows, injuring some 1,200 people, most of them hurt by broken glass. Early estimates reported 500 injured, but that number has been climbing.
The Russian International News Agency reported that a roof and wall partly collapsed at a zinc factory in the Chelyabinsk Region after it was hit by a shock wave. The windows of numerous buildings shattered throughout the region as well, including a dozen schools and three hospitals.
News of the meteorite raises fear of an even larger impact as a massive asteroid known as 2012 DA14 comes at its closest to Earth on Friday — 17,150 miles, a distance far closer than our own moon (238,900 miles) and even closer than some satellites. However, there’s no chance the asteroid will hit the planet and NASA says there is nothing to worry about. Scientists say the asteroid is unrelated to the meteorite, despite the coincidence.