Thousands of cleanup workers have been deployed to Russia's central Urals region following Friday's meteorite strike. More than 1,200 people were injured when shockwaves from the 10-ton meteorite hit the area.
A vast cleanup operation was underway in the Urals region on Saturday to repair thousands of homes left damaged in the Chelyabinsk region. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered that about 20,000 members of the nation's civil defense be deployed to the area, alongside seven aircraft.
Local authorities said more than 3,000 buildings were damaged when the meteorite plunged to earth in a blinding fireball, creating shockwaves that blew out windows and collapsed walls.
"We have a special team working ... that is now assessing the seismic stability of buildings," Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told residents in the central industrial city of Chelyabinsk on Saturday.
Fifteen people, including three children, were still being treated in hospital, the ministry added. They were among roughly 200 children and 1,000 adults who were injured Friday. Most had been bruised or cut by flying shards of glass from windows.
Meteorite fragments sought
Alongside cleanup efforts, Russia's emergencies minister said experts were also seeking to recover fragments of the meteor.
"The experts are looking everywhere where pieces of the meteor may have landed," Puchkov told Russia's news agency Interfax, although none have yet been recovered.
The biggest impact reportedly left a crater measuring around six meters (19.7 feet) across on the edge of a frozen lake, 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) west of Chelyabinsk city. Drivers spent three hours scouring the bottom of Lake Chebarkul looking for fragments which were believed to have plunged into the waters, but were unsuccessful.
According to the US space agency, NASA, the widely filmed fireball had entered the atmosphere, measuring about 15 meters (16 yards) across before disintegrating. Witnesses reported what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock wave, a correspondent for the Reuters news agency reported.
In what is believed to have been a separate incident on Friday, a 46-meter-wide asteroid narrowly missed Earth as it whizzed past at a distance of 27,000 kilometers. That was "the closest-ever predicted approach to Earth for an object this large," NASA said.
It was reported just hours after the meteorite hit central Russia, although NASA insisted it was a "completely unrelated" spectacle.
The US space agency estimates that on average, a small asteroid such as the 2012 DA 14 flies close to Earth every 40 years. One reportedly only hits the planet once every 1,200 years.
ccp/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
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