Synagogue Damaged, Jewish Service Interrupted as Meteorite Strikes Russia

Morning Prayers Punctuated by Huge Blast

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By Anne Cohen

Published February 15, 2013.
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A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, sending fireballs crashing to earth which shattered windows and damaged buildings, injuring more than 500 people.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave, in the industrial city 950 miles east of Moscow.

The fireball, travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second according to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 125 miles away.

Car alarms went off, windows broke and mobile phone networks were interrupted. The Interior Ministry said the meteor explosion had caused a sonic boom.

“I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day,” said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains. “I felt like I was blinded by headlights,” he said.

No fatalities were reported, but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, told Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to help those affected. “First of all, it is necessary to think about how to help the people, and not only to think about it, but to do it immediately,” Putin said.

A synagogue in Siberia was among the buildings damaged by the falling meteorite.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Levitin, director of the Or Avner Jewish day school in Chelyabinsk, was quoted by an Israeli website as saying congregants heard a huge explosion during morning prayers followed by a bright flash that lit up the sky.

“Glasses shattered and people tried to escape, but they weren’t sure were to go,” Levitin told COL, a media outlet affiliated with Chabad. “Outside we were told a meteor had fallen from the space.”


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