Putin orders assistance after meteor explodes
MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin has ordered immediate assistance for people living in Russia's Ural Mountains after a meteor exploded over the region on Friday, injuring at least 520.
"Every effort should be made to objectively estimate the damage. People have been injured. Assistance must be provided to them immediately," Putin said in a statement posted on the Kremlin's website.
Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said the meteor, observed at 07:20 Moscow time (0320 GMT) near Chelyabink, injured more than 520 people, including 12 children.
Some 300 houses, 12 schools, and a number of factories were damaged, the minister said.
The explosions broke an estimated 100,000 square meters of glass in Chelyabink, a city of 1 million about 1,500 km east of Moscow, officials said.
The meteor -- estimated to be about 10 tons -- entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph and shattered about 30-50 km above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
It released the energy of several kilotons above the Chelyabinsk region, the academy said.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who addressed an economic forum in the city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, said the meteor "indicates that not only economies are vulnerable, but the entire planet is."
Other officials were also highly responsive to the unexpected meteor.
Pavel Astakhov, the presidential envoy for children rights, told the Interfax news agency that "it is necessary to secure children's safety as a threat of a new meteorite shower in Chelyabinsk region remains."
Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius, however, urged people not to approach the meteor fragments and immediately call police if they found any.
"Security Committee of the State Duma controls the situation," Vyacheslav Timchenko, a Duma member, told reporters after the MPs were briefed on the event in the Urals.
Soldiers were heading to the region to carry out rescue and relief operations.