A meteor crashing in Russia’s Ural mountains has injured at least 950 people, as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.
Most of those hurt, in the Chelyabinsk region where the meteor fell, suffered cuts and bruises but at least 46 remain in hospital.
A fireball streaked through the clear morning sky, followed by loud bangs.
President Vladimir Putin said he thanked God no big fragments had fallen in populated areas.
A large meteor fragment landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a town in Chelyabinsk region.
The meteor’s dramatic passing was witnessed in Yekaterinburg, 200km (125 miles) to the north, and in Kazakhstan, to the south.
A huge line of smoke, like you get from a plane but many times bigger”
“It was quite extraordinary,” Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya told BBC News. “We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky.”
“The explosion was so strong that some windows in our building and in the buildings that are across the road and in the city in general, the windows broke.”
Officials say a large meteor partially burned up in the lower atmosphere, resulting in fragments falling earthwards.
Thousands of rescue workers have been dispatched to the area to provide help to the injured, the emergencies ministry said.
The Chelyabinsk region, about 1,500km (930 miles) east of Moscow, is home to many factories, a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre.
One Russian politician said the event was not a meteor shower but a US weapons test, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, was quoted as saying: “Meteors are falling. Those are not meteors, it is Americans testing their new weapon.”
So is it Barack Obama or the Halliburton Hurricaine Machine?