Russian authorities have reportedly sent a 20,000-strong team to the Ural Mountains to help with the rescue and clean-up operation after a meteor struck the area.
The 10-ton meteor, thought to be made of iron, exploded over the Chelyabinsk region in southern Russia yesterday morning.
More than 1,000 people were injured when the meteor, which was travelling at over 54,000mph, streaked through the atmosphere and created a sonic boom.
Hundreds of people were injured when glass shattered in countless windows in the area.
According to Russia’s Academy of Sciences, the meteor broke apart 30-50km (20-30 miles) above the Earth’s surface, releasing several kilotonnes of energy - the same as a small atomic weapon - the BBC said.
The meteorite is believed to have landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a town in the Chelyabinsk region.
Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly said he thanked God that no large fragments had fallen in populated areas, while Russia’s emergencies ministry urged calm, saying background radiation levels were normal following the meteorite shower, the BBC said.
Dramatic amateur video footage showed the meteor streaking across the sky at around 9.20am local time. It caused a bright flash of light and left a white trail of smoke.
Tim O’Brien, associate director of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, said: “It made a sonic boom in the atmosphere, and that hit buildings and shattered windows. That is what seems to have caused the injuries.
“It’s a completely abnormal experience. This thing appeared in the distance, raced over the horizon and was followed up 30 seconds or a minute later by a huge boom as the shockwave hit the ground. I can imagine that would be very frightening.”
Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, said: “There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people’s houses to check if they were okay.
“We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound.”
Dr Lewis, an astronautics expert at the University of Southampton, said the meteor was “very small” at around five metres in diameter.
In an amazing “cosmic coincidence”, experts said the meteor appeared to be unconnected to an asteroid that narrowly missed Earth last night.
The asteroid, named 2012 DA14, was big enough to flatten London and came within 17,200 miles of the Earth’s surface.