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Russians call for defense system against meteors

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
REUTERS
A man repairs the window of a sports hall damaged by a shockwave from a meteor in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk February 16, 2013. Thousands of Russian emergency workers went out on Saturday to clean up. Windows were shattered in more than 4,000 buildings in the region. The damage is estimated at 1 billion rubles, or $33 million. REUTERS/Olaf Koens

MOSCOW — The big blast from outer space was still reverberating in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Saturday as glaziers went to work replacing windows and doctors tended to the wounded.

Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, pushed for plans for a terrestrial defense system to protect against meteors, asteroids and comets and their sonic booms.

About 40 people remained in hospitals, out of 1,200 who had sought treatment for injuries; one woman was evacuated to Moscow in serious condition.

Divers finished their initial inspection of a lake 60 miles west of Chelyabinsk but found no traces of the space object that exploded on Friday morning over the region, Interfax reported.

A big chunk of it is believed to have fallen into Chebarkul Lake, breaking the thick ice.

“When a small piece of rock would fall on the Earth 100 years ago, it could have caused minimal damage and would have stayed largely undetected, but Friday's accident fully demonstrated how vulnerable the technological civilization of today has become,” Vladimir Lipunov, head of the Space Monitoring Laboratory with Moscow State University, told the Los Angeles Times.

“It is high time Russia should start heavily investing in building an advanced space danger monitoring and warning system and above that a system capable of destroying such super bombs falling on us from the skies.”

Meanwhile, people on the other side of the world on Friday night in California reported seeing an unusual flash of light over the San Francisco Bay area.

The light streaking in the Northern California sky was a sporadic meteor, or fireball, and not a major event, said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, based in Genesee, N.Y.

“Fireballs happen every single night, all around the world,” he said.

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