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Pictured: Panic as Russian residents injured by meteor

A meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk. (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru) A meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk. (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru)

Friday, February 15, 2013
5:47 PM

A meteor was seen in the Russian sky before it exploded over the Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb.

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The meteorite contrail was seen over the vilage of Bolshoe Sidelnikovo (AP Photo/ Nadezhda Luchinina, E1.ru)The meteorite contrail was seen over the vilage of Bolshoe Sidelnikovo (AP Photo/ Nadezhda Luchinina, E1.ru)

Its sonic blasts shattered countless windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.

The spectacle deeply frightened many Russians, with some elderly women declaring that the world was coming to an end. Many of the injured were cut by flying glass as they flocked to windows to see what the source was for such an intense flash of light.

The meteor - estimated to be about 10 tons - entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered into pieces about 30-50 kms (18-32 miles) above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said.

Amateur video showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20am local time, just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.

A frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera. (AP Photo/AP Video)A frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera. (AP Photo/AP Video)

“There was panic. People had no idea what was happening,” said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, a city of one million about 1,500 kms (930 miles) east of Moscow.

“We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud, thundering sound,” he said.

The meteor released several kilotons of energy above the region, the science academy said. The shockwave blew in an estimated 100,000 square metres of glass, according to city officials.

The meteor hit less than a day before Asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth - about 17,150 miles (28,000 kms).

This photo was taken with a mobile phone camera. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)This photo was taken with a mobile phone camera. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

The Interior Ministry said 985 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 44 of them were taken to hospital. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, it said.

There was no immediate word on any deaths or anyone struck by space fragments.

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