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The sky fell on their heads

It happened in Val d’Or. Unable to sleep, Geneviève gets up at dawn. She jumps into her slippers and walks to the window. She opens the curtain and contemplates the sky. Day breaks. Not a sound. Everything is quiet. Then bang ! A huge clap of thunder followed by a blinding light in the sky. Then the window shatters. Screaming, Geneviève brings her hands to face. She is bleeding.

Robert wakes up startled. He heard the thunder, the windows shattering, Geneviève screaming. Then a second bang, a third, a fourth, a fifth. One per second for twelve seconds.

Robert runs to the living room. All of the windows on the side were shattered. There are shards all over the floor. Geneviève’s face is covered in blood. The children are crying upstairs. The entire family jumps into the car and heads to the hospital.

On the way, Robert sees dozens of shattered windows. He sees people coming out of their houses and looking at the sky. The roof of the factory that he drove by every day had collapsed. All of the windows were broken.

The hospital emergency room is full. There is a long line. There are bloody hands and faces everywhere. One senior’s eyes had been burned by the flash of light. In the hallways, people are talking about the huge clap of thunder. Some thought it was an explosion. They talk about the flash, the endless bangs and the windows that shattered like a chain reaction.

Facebook has erupted. Texts are flying back and forth. Robert learns that friends, family and co-workers suffered the same fate as Geneviève.

The family goes back home. He sweeps the floor and makes a phone call to replace the window. He turns on the TV. There is a special program about the tragedy.

Toll: 1142 injured, mostly due to window shards. Among them, 258 children. More than 3000 buildings are damaged: houses, factories and businesses in Val d’Or and the surrounding region. The next day, forty people are still in hospital.

What happened?

A 7000 to 10000 tonne meteor measuring 18 metres in diameter hit the earth’s atmosphere at full speed: 20 kilometres per second. The heart of the meteor disintegrated at a distance of about 20 kilometres from 20 Val d’Or. The shockwave was thirty times bigger than the atomic bomb that exploded above Hiroshima in 1945.

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The meteor hit 20 kilometres north of Val d’Or. A second later, thousands of windows shattered in Val d’Or and the surrounding region. Each bang that Robert and Geneviève heard was caused by the disintegration. The rest of the meteor (less than 1%), called meteorites left craters dozens of kilometres from Val d’Or.

The flash in the sky was seen by people as far away as Manitoba. The meteor caused damages over a distance of 90 kilometers.

In bed that night, Robert whispered in Geneviève’s ear: “Imagine if the meteor had been a little closer. Our house would have exploded.”

This fictitious story was based on the one in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, hit by a meteor on February 15, 2013. See a photo of the event on the Wikipedia Chelyabinsk article.

Reference: French Wikipedia article Le météore de Tcheliabinsk

Photos: iStockphoto

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