Originally published at 10:30. Updated throughout the day.
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NB: This story has been updated. Please see new story here.
As of late afternoon, around 1,200 people had been hurt, including more than 200 children, mostly in the Chelyabinsk Region, the Interior Ministry said. Figures on hospitalization in the region varied significantly, from 34 to 112, with two people reported to be in "grave" condition.
The majority of those hurt had suffered cuts from broken glass, but the region's governor said two-thirds of the injuries were very light.
President Vladimir Putin ordered emergencies officials to provide "immediate" assistance to people affected by the meteorite. Officials said gas supplies were cut off to hundreds of homes in the Chelyabinsk Region as a safety precaution. Some 3,000 residential buildings were also damaged, Chelyabinsk city administration officials said. An estimated 20,000 emergency response workers have been mobilized.
Background radiation levels reportedly remain unchanged. This was confirmed both by emergencies officials, and by the national nuclear agency, concerned because the area has a fair number of nuclear facilities.
Reports about whether this was one large meteorite or many smaller ones initially varied, but the national space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed by early afternoon that the object had been a single meteorite, a report given earlier by emergency officials.
“Verified information indicates that this was one meteorite which burned up as it approached Earth and disintegrated into smaller pieces,” deputy head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry press office, Elena Smirnykh, said.
Roscosmos stated the meteorite had been moving at a speed of 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) per second.
"All the city's residents saw blinding flashes, very bright ones," a teacher in the Chelyabinsk Region told RIA Novosti. "Suddenly, it was very, very horribly bright. Not like the lights got turned on, but as if everything was illuminated with unusual white light."
Officials are trying to determine where the fragments have landed.
The Chelyabinsk governor said one had fallen in a lake in his region, while others have been reported in the Tyumen, Kurgan and Sverdlovsk regions as well. Police said an eight-meter wide crater had been discovered near the Chelyabinsk lake. Radiation levels around the crater were reported to be normal.
Early in the day, emergency officials in neighboring Kazakhstan said they were searching for two unidentified objects that reportedly fell in the country's Aktobe region. But no meteorite fragments had been found by Friday evening, local time, leading to speculation that if meteors had entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Central Asian country they had been vaporized before making impact.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said there was no link between the meteorite and the 2012 DA14 asteroid which is due to pass close by the Earth later on Friday. NASA also said there was no connection because the asteriod and the "Russian meteorite" are on "very different paths."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum going on in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region, called the meteorite “a symbol of the forum.”
“I hope that there will be no serious consequences, but it is a demonstration that it is not only the economy that is vulnerable, but our planet as well,” he said.
Clarifies latest figures for injuries.
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- mishkaWhat about the air defence system?17:49, 15/02/2013It was not faster than an ICBM. Why it could not be seen in air defnce radars and destroyed before the hit? It means if it was a balistic missile, it would not be intercepted by Russian air defence system. I dont know if it was really a kind of new weapon to be tested on Russia with such an extrem timing just after "Post-Soviet Integration is Unstoppable – Putin" or not but it s clear a meteor should be detected and tracked much earlier with its route to earth. And I expect Russian S300 or S400 systems to destroy it on air preventing to be so harmful. Only a couple of days ago there was a news about estimates of the orbit of the meteor Apopsis. Russian scientists from a missile development interprise in St. Petersburg promised to develop a missile system to trak it s orbit and destroy if it will be neccessary in following 50 years. It s tragicomic to talk about to track and to destroy a meteor is millions of miles away from the earth since 2050 and in the same week to be hit by a meteor. This a meteor (if it is) should be thousands of times closer than Apophis. There was no warning to local people by public authorties before the impact. And no attempt to intercept it by air defence systems.
And one mroe thing seems very strange in the videos of the incident, the white track of the meteor in the blue sky. It s not straight as expected. I am not a space expert but according to physical rules an object goes by the gravity should have a direct and straight route but not a way like with small corrections in its route by any navigation.
And finally I have a question to specialists, if the meteors have been observed since now had white tracks in the skye or black?
Every August there are meteor showers in the earth and we have observed them for centuries. But only at nights. We like to see them as falling stars but we can not see any white track in the sky daytime when it happens every August.
The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.