A meteor exploded over central Russia today, creating an atomic bomb-size shock wave that shattered tens of thousands of windows, shoved buildings around and injured an estimated 1,200, authorities said.
But it wasn’t big enough to disrupt prayers at a synagogue in the bull’s-eye, where Shliach Rabbi Yechiel Levitin told COL.org, a website focusing on Jews and Israel, “People come here to pray despite the cold, which is minus 8. The congregation prayed as usual, and they along with Head Schliach Rabbi Meir Kirsch were assisting the injured.”
“We heard a huge explosion … but did not know what it was,” Levitin told the website. “There was glass shattering everywhere, people trying to escape – but there was nowhere to run.
“Then we found out it was a meteor from space.”
He said one of the congregants ran outside to see what was happening, and a huge piece of glass fell into the spot where he had been sitting moments before.
“It was clearly a huge miracle,” Levitin told the site.
Not everyone experienced such a miracle, however.
Authorities said the fireball, traveling at an estimated 20 miles per second, blazed across the sky with a white trail that could be seen for hundreds of miles, then exploded, disrupting mobile networks, breaking windows, walls and anything breakable.
The BBC said it happened in Russia’s Ural mountains, in the Chelyabinks region. Dozens of people remained hospitalized.
The chunk of rock actually landed in a lake near the town of Chebarkul in the Chelyabinsk region, the BBC said.
“It was quite extraordinary,” Chelyabinsk’s Polina Zolotarevskaya told BBC. “We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky.”
Russia’s Interfax at one point reported it was “Americans testing their new weapon,” but evidence indicated otherwise.
President Vladimir Putin promised help for those who were injured, as well as for repairs to schools that were damaged.
Scientists said it was coincidence that at about the same time an asteroid, identified as 2012 DA14, was passing the Earth at distance of only about 17,000 miles – probably the closest approach ever for a space rock that was estimated to be one-third the size of a football field.
Russia’s Science Academy said the meteor broke apart miles above the ground and compared the energy released by the explosion to a small atomic weapon.
No deaths were reported immediately but an estimated 20,000 workers were dispatched to help with the cleanup, officials said.
Reuters reported that within hours of the event, people were offering pieces of the meteorite online – including one entrepreneur who offered a black piece of stone for about $50.