Russian region begins recovery from meteor fall
As a small army of people worked to replace acres of windows shattered by the enormous explosion from a meteor, many joked on Saturday about what had happened in this troubled pocket of Russia.
The fireball that streaked into the sky over this tough industrial city at about sunrise Friday was undeniably traumatic. Nearly 1,200 people were reported injured by the shock wave from the explosion, estimated to be as strong as 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
But it also brought a sense of cooperation in a troubled region. Large numbers of volunteers came forward to help fix the damage caused by the explosion and many residents came together on the Internet.
Chelyabinsk, nicknamed Tankograd because it produced the famed Soviet T-34 tanks, can be as grim as its backbone heavy industries. Long winters where temperatures routinely hit minus-30 Celsius add to a general dour mien, as do worries about dangerous facilities in the surrounding region.
In 1957, a waste tank at the Mayak nuclear weapons plant in the Chelyabinsk region exploded, contaminating 23,000 square kilometers and prompting authorities to evacuate 10,000 nearby residents. It is now Russia's main nuclear waste disposal facility.
A vast plant for disposing of chemical weapons lies 85 kilometers east of the city. More than 24,000 people, including volunteers, have mobilized in the region to cover windows, gather warm clothes and food, and make other relief efforts, the regional governor's office said.
Gov. Mikhail Yurevich on Saturday said that damage from the high-altitude explosion is estimated at 1 billion rubles. He promised to have all the broken windows replaced within a week. But that is a long wait in a frigid region. The midday temperature in Chelyabinsk was minus-12 C , and for many the immediate task was to put up plastic sheeting and boards on shattered residential windows.
In the town of Chebarkul, 80 kilometers west of Chelyabinsk city, divers explored the bottom of an ice-crusted lake looking for meteor fragments believed to have fallen there, leaving a six meter wide hole. Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius told Russian news agencies the search hadn't found anything.