Russia emergencies minister Vladimir Puchkov visited the scene after a meteor disintegrated over the Chelyabinsk region in Russia’s central Ural Mountains, prompting reports of property damage and hundreds of injuries.
“We enforced emergencies ministry brigades and are restoring the buildings to protect people from the cold and are cleaning all the interiors. We will be especially careful about switching the gas back on,” notes a translation of the Puchkov’s comments on an msn video posted Feb. 16.
“All the energy supply systems, all the communications, are working properly,” the minister said, adding that more than 24,000 people work in the region. “We’re working not only in Chelyabinsk region, that received the most damage, but also in the neighbouring regions where this anomaly occurred also,” he said.
Catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide noted on Friday that hundreds of injuries and damage to buildings in six cities were reported. “Most of the damage was caused by the shock waves as the meteor broke up in the atmosphere. The force of the explosion was enough to shatter dishes, televisions and windows,” states the statement from AIR Worldwide.
“Preliminary reports suggest that more than 3,000 homes and businesses sustained damage from broken glass, including a zinc factory where part of the roof collapsed,” the press release adds.
In many countries with developed insurance markets, notes AIR Worldwide, a comprehensive multi-peril insurance policy generally will cover all risks that are not specifically excluded, meaning that meteorite damage would generally be covered.
“The Chelyabinsk region is largely industrial, with many factories and other large facilities that include a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre,” Risk Management Solutions Inc. reports in a statement. “A spokesman for Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy state corporation, has stated that its operations remained unaffected,” it adds.
In an update Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California reported “new information provided by a worldwide network of sensors has allowed scientists to refine their estimates for the size of the object that entered that atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk.”
Prior to entering Earth’s atmosphere, the estimated size of the object has been revised upward from 49 feet (15 metres) to 55 feet (17 metres), and its estimated mass has increased from 7,000 to 10,000 tons. Also, the estimate for energy released during the event has increased by 30 kilotons to almost 500 kilotons of energy released, the information adds.
NASA reports these new estimates were generated using new data collected by five additional infrasound stations located around the world. “The infrasound data indicates that the event, from atmospheric entry to the meteor’s airborne disintegration took 32.5 seconds. The calculations using the infrasound data were performed by Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario,” it adds.
“We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory says in the statement. “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.”
AIR Worldwide notes the last meteorite strike was recorded in Sudan in 2008. While hundreds of smaller meteorites strike the Earth’s surface every year, only 10 to 20 are detected. “Such meteorites usually reach the surface having been burned down by the atmosphere and are too small to cause damage.”
NASA adds that the Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia.