Search on for meteorite's fragments in Russia

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Meteor Shower
Moscow, Feb 17: Around a thousand people were injured and 51 of them had to undergo treatment in hospital when a meteor exploded over the Urals region in Russia two days ago, Health officials said here.

Soon after the 55-ft meteor entered the atmosphere, it broke up at an altitude of 32 km. What followed was a massive shockwave that blew out windows of houses in the region and set off alarms of cars. Almost all the buildings in the city of Chelyabinsk and surrounding areas were damaged by the boom.

The US space agency NASA estimated that the amount of energy released when the meteor weighing 10,000 tonnes exploded was about 30 times greater than the Aug 1945 atomic blast in the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

According to scientists, the meteorite's fragments could have fallen somewhere in the Urals region. Paul Chodas of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA said: "When you have a fireball of this size we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface and in this case there were probably some large ones."

In the hope of finding at least one fragment of the heavenly body, a through search was carried out at the Lake Chebarkul in Chelyabinsk. The effort has not succeeded so far. The Russian Emergencies Ministry stated that its "divers have completed examining the lake's area but discovered no traces of the meteorite."

However, the ministry has not given up and is still trying to find out where exactly the fragments fell.

Russia has previously experienced a devastating meteorite impact. A meteor much larger than the one that exploded on Feb 15 broke up in the skies over Siberia on Jun 30, 1908. Trees in approximately 2150 sq kms were felled by the consequent shockwave. That blast is referred to as the Tunguska Event.

A senor Russian official urged the US and other countries to collaborate with his country in order to prevent a similar cataclysm. "Instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defence," he tweeted on Feb 15 even as the asteroid 2012 DA14 whizzed past the Earth.

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