Moscow: Over 500 people, including 84 children were injured on Friday when a meteor streaked across the sky above Russia's Ural Mountains, sending shockwaves and showering debris that blasted windows and rocked buildings.
Most of those hurt suffered minor cuts and bruises but some received head injuries, Russian officials said.
According to Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, 514 people have sought medical attention in the disaster area, 112 of whom have been hospitalized. Among the injured there are 84 children, Emergency ministry reported.
The meteorite fall has not caused any serious disruptions, all housing and public utilities facilities, energy and communications facilities are operating normally, chief of the National Crisis Management Centre of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) Vladimir Stepanov was quoted as saying by a news agency.
Russian space agency Roskosmos has confirmed the object that crashed in the Chelyabinsk region is a meteorite. They said in a statement "According to preliminary estimates, this space object is of non-technogenic origin and qualifies as a meteorite. It was moving at a low trajectory with a speed of about 30 km/s."
Russian Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust.
The Russian army has joined the rescue operation. Army units are searching for meteorite debris in several places in Chelyabinsk region and in the neighbouring Tyumen region.
The Emergency Ministry reported that 20,000 rescue workers are operating in the region. Three aircraft were deployed to survey the area and locate other possible impact locations. Radiation, chemical and biological protection units have been put on high alert in the area. As the explosion has occurred several kilometers above ground, a large ground area has to be thoroughly checked for radiation and other threats.
At least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to local 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.
A bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia's Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan.
"There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people's houses to check if they were OK," said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometres east of Moscow, the biggest city in the affected region.
"We saw a big burst of light then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound," he told The Associated Press by telephone.
The dramatic events prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russian political figures. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that "not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet."