Russian region begins recovery from meteor fall
CHELYABINSK, Russia - A small army of workers set to work Saturday to replace acres of windows shattered by the enormous explosion from a meteor, while other residents contemplated the astonishing event with pride and humor.
The fireball that streaked into the sky over Chelyabinsk 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 and humor to a tough industrial city 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 - first to find out what happened and soon to make jokes about it.
One of the most popular jests: Residents of the meteor were terrified to see Chelyabinsk approaching.
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 (minus-4 Fahrenheit) 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 (9,200 square miles) 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 (50 miles) east of the city.
"The city is a place where people always seem bitter with each other," said music teacher Ilya Shibanov. But the meteor "was one of the rare times when people started to live together through one event."
"For most people, it's a good excuse for a joke," he said.
It was also a reason for Shibanov to quickly concoct a rap video that got wide Internet attention, including the lines: "''Pow, pow, pow - everything flew and factory windows crumbled. This Friday the bars are going to be full, so be ready for the aftermath."
But for many, it's been a reason to roll up their sleeves and get to work repairing the more than 4,000 buildings in the city and region where windows were shattered, or to provide other services.
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. Crews from glass companies in adjacent regions were being flown in.
Gov. Mikhail Yurevich on Saturday said that damage from the high-altitude explosion -believed to have been as powerful as 20 Hiroshima bombs - is estimated at 1 billion rubles ($33 million). 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 (10 F), and for many the immediate task was to put up plastic sheeting and boards on shattered residential windows.
Meanwhile, the search continued for major fragments of the meteor.
In the town of Chebarkul, 80 kilometers (50 miles) 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 (20-foot-wide) hole. Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius told Russian news agencies the search hadn't found anything.
Police kept a small crowd of curious onlookers from venturing out onto the icy lake, where a tent was set up for the divers.
Many of them were still trying to process the memories of the strange day they'd lived through.
Valery Fomichov said he had been out for a run when the meteor streaked across the sky shortly after sunrise.
"I glanced up and saw a glowing dot in the west. And it got bigger and bigger, like a soccer ball, until it became blindingly white and I turned away," he said.
In a local church, clergyman Sexton Sergei sought to derive a larger lesson.
"Perhaps God was giving a kind of sign, so that people don't simply think about their own trifles on earth, but rather look to the heavens once in a while."
In Chelyabinsk, university student Ksenia Arslanova said she was pleased that people in the city of 1 million generally behaved well after the bewildering flash and explosions.
"People were kind of ironic about it. And that's a good thing, that people didn't run to the grocery store. Everyone was calm," the 19-year-old architecture student said. "I'm proud that our city didn't fall into depression."
As Chelyabinsk began its healing process, residents of San Francisco, on the other side of the planet, worried that they might be next. A science institute in Northern California says it has received numerous reports of a bright streak of light over the San Francisco Bay area on Friday night.
Cuba apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to the meteorite that detonated over Russia this week, island media reported, with startled residents describing a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls.
There were no reports of any injuries or damage such as those caused by the Russia meteorite, which sent out shockwaves that hurt some 1,200 people and shattered countless windows.
Cuba apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to the Chelyabinsk meteor several days earlier, island media reported, with startled residents describing a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls.
In a video from a state TV newscast posted on the website CubaSi late Friday, unidentified residents of the central city of Rodas, near Cienfuegos, said the explosion was impressive.
"On Tuesday we left home to fish around five in the afternoon, and around 8 p.m. we saw a light in the heavens and then a big ball of fire, bigger than the sun," one local man said in the video.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ferrante defense’s opening statement points to wife’s symptoms
- Student arrested at Shaler High School in roundup of 35 Allegheny County drug dealers
- Public’s help sought in identifying male remains found in Pittsburgh
- New movie studio coming to McKees Rocks
- Woman taken into custody for fatal stabbing of male companion in Duquesne
- Ex-judge in Philadelphia charged with bribery, conspiracy in sting case
- Steelers’ defense on pace for fewest sacks in 16-game season
- World’s 1st carbon capture power plant switches on in Canada
- Starkey: Century mark beckons for Ben
- Cops: Washington County military surplus store sold stolen items
- Laurel Mountain ski plan needs more information, planners say