Divers find no pieces of Russian meteorite

Feb. 16, 2013 at 12:46 PM
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CHELYABINSK, Russia, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Divers searching Lake Chebarkul were unable to find a chunk of the meteorite that exploded above the Ural Mountains in Russia, officials said Saturday.

Eyewitnesses said they saw part of the meteorite hitting the lake Friday, RIA Novosti reported. Officials said that as of Saturday no fragments of the meteorite had been recovered in the lake or anywhere else.

"The ministry's divers have completed examining the lake's area but discovered no traces of the meteorite," Irina Rossius, a spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry, said.

Officials told the news agency 20,000 emergency response workers have been dispatched to the area to help with repairs.

Mikhail Yurevich, the governor of the Chelyabinsk region, said about 100,000 homeowners were affected.

Gas supplies to hundreds of homes in the city Chelyabinsk were immediately cut off as a safety measure, officials said. Some 3,000 residential homes were damaged.

Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov on Saturday commended the teams working in the affected area. He said power, transportation and communications system were "all working stably.

"A great deal of work has already been done, and we are now launching rebuilding work," he added.

Approximately 1,200 people were hurt, including more than 200 children, Friday when a massive boom created by the giant flying rock blew out windows and damaged buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk, said police and other officials

Most of the injuries were from flying glass. About 50 people were hospitalized, with at least two reported to be in "grave" condition.

Yurevich described reports that some area residents had broken their own windows, hoping to collect damages, as a "journalistic spoof."

The meteorite was about 55 feet across and weighed about 15.4 million pounds, NASA reported.

It exploded 12 to 15 miles above the Earth, generating a shock wave 30 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

The space agency said the object was not related to asteroid 2012 DA14, which safely flew by Earth the same day at an altitude of about 17,000 miles.

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