Asteroid, large enough to destroy a city, to whiz past Earth today

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This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system. (AP) This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system. (AP)
SummaryNASA says 45-meter wide asteroid is the closest flyby ever predicted for such a large object.

Over 700 people, including 159 children, were injured on Friday in a freak incident when a meteor weighing about 10 tonnes streaked across the sky above Russia's Ural Mountains, creating panic as shockwaves blasted windows and rocked buildings.

According to officials, 725 people have sought medical attention in the disaster area, 112 of whom have been hospitalised. Among the injured there are 159 children.

Most of those hurt suffered minor cuts and bruises but some received head injuries, Russian officials said.

Gas supplies were cut off to hundreds of homes in the Chelyabinsk region as a safety precaution and some 3,000 buildings were reported to have been damaged, a media report said.

A fireball was seen streaking through the clear morning sky above the city of Yekaterinburg, followed by loud bangs, but much of the impact was felt in the city of Chelyabinsk, some 200 km south of Yekaterinburg.

President Vladimir Putin said he thanked God no big fragments had fallen in populated areas.

Putin also promised “immediate” aid for people affected, saying kindergartens and schools had been damaged, and work disrupted at industrial enterprises.

Russian space agency Roskosmos has confirmed the object that crashed in the Chelyabinsk region is a meteorite. They said in a statement, “According to preliminary estimates, this space object is of non-technogenic origin and qualifies as a meteorite. It was moving at a low trajectory with a speed of about 30 km/second.”

Asteroids are small bodies that orbit the Sun as the Earth does. Larger asteroids are called planetoids or minor planets and smaller ones are called meteoroids.

The Russian Academy of Sciences estimates that the meteor weighed about 10 tonnes and entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kmph.

It would have shattered about 30-50 km above ground, with most of the meteor burning up.

Russian Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 km further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust.

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