‘Balls Of Fire’ Also Seen In California, Cuba

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Hours after a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,000 people and an asteroid passed relatively close to Earth, residents in California reported seeing an unusual flash of light over the San Francisco Bay area that left many startled and thrilled.

Cuba likewise apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to but smaller than the meteorite that detonated over Russia this week, island media reported, with startled residents describing a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls.

There were no reports of any injuries or damage such as those caused by the Russia meteorite, which sent out shockwaves that hurt some 1,200 people and shattered countless windows.

In a video from a state TV newscast posted on the website CubaSi late Friday, unidentified residents of the central city of Rodas, near Cienfuegos, said the explosion was impressive.

''On Tuesday we left home to fish around five in the afternoon, and around 8:00 we saw a light in the heavens and then a big ball of fire, bigger than the sun,'' one local man said in the video.

''My home shook completely,'' said a woman. ''I had never heard such a strange thing.''

Marcos Rodriguez, whom the video identified as a specialist in anthropology, said all signs point to a meteorite.

Based on reports, 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 in Genesee, New York. The group recorded at least 35 reports of the event, he said.

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

Experts say smaller meteorites hit earth five to 10 times a year but chances of a large meteor passing, such as the one that streaked over Chelyabinsk, Russia, are much rarer. Another meteor landed in the Bay Area in October and caused a loud sonic boom, a sound that could have been from the meteor traveling faster than the speed of sound, officials said at the time.

Another meteor that exploded April 22 was seen over a large part of Northern California and Nevada.

On Friday, the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland also reported receiving calls describing what appeared to be a fireball flying west around 8 p.m.

Jonathan Braidman, an instructor at the center, described the object based off reports as likely being a small piece of an asteroid that ''somehow'' got on a collision course with the earth.

Bay Area media outlets reported the fireball was reported seen from an area stretching from Gilroy, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of San Francisco, to Sacramento, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) to the northeast.

One viewer told television station NBC11 the object appeared bluish in color and appeared to be heading straight to the ground. San Leandro resident Krizstofer Loid told KTVU-TV that he was sitting on a lawn chair in the backyard of his home when he saw the object.

Meanwhile, the fireball that streaked into the sky over Russia at about sunrise Friday was undeniably traumatic. Nearly 1,200 people were reported injured by the shock wave from the explosion, estimated to be as strong as 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

But it also brought a sense of cooperation in a troubled region. Large numbers of volunteers came forward to help fix the damage caused by the explosion and many residents came together on the Internet.

More than 24,000 people, including volunteers, have mobilized in the region to cover windows, gather warm clothes and food, and make other relief efforts, the regional governor's office said. Crews from glass companies in adjacent regions were being flown in.

Gov. Mikhail Yurevich on Saturday said that damage from the high-altitude explosion -believed to have been as powerful as 20 Hiroshima bombs - is estimated at 1 billion rubles ($33 million). He promised to have all the broken windows replaced within a week.

But that is a long wait in a frigid region. The midday temperature in Chelyabinsk was minus-12 C (10 F), and for many the immediate task was to put up plastic sheeting and boards on shattered residential windows.

Meanwhile, the search continued for major fragments of the meteor.

In the town of Chebarkul, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Chelyabinsk city, divers explored the bottom of an ice-crusted lake looking for meteor fragments believed to have fallen there, leaving a six-meter-wide (20-foot-wide) hole. Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius told Russian news agencies the search hadn't found anything.

Police kept a small crowd of curious onlookers from venturing out onto the icy lake, where a tent was set up for the divers.

Many of them were still trying to process the memories of the strange day they'd lived through.

Valery Fomichov said he had been out for a run when the meteor streaked across the sky shortly after sunrise.

''I glanced up and saw a glowing dot in the west. And it got bigger and bigger, like a soccer ball, until it became blindingly white and I turned away,'' he said.

In a local church, clergyman Sexton Sergei sought to derive a larger lesson.

''Perhaps God was giving a kind of sign, so that people don't simply think about their own trifles on earth, but rather look to the heavens once in a while.''

In Chelyabinsk, university student Ksenia Arslanova said she was pleased that people in the city of 1 million generally behaved well after the bewildering flash and explosions.

''People were kind of ironic about it. And that's a good thing, that people didn't run to the grocery store. Everyone was calm,'' the 19-year-old architecture student said. ''I'm proud that our city didn't fall into depression.''

As Chelyabinsk began its healing process, residents of San Francisco, on the other side of the planet, worried that they might be next. A science institute in Northern California says it has received numerous reports of a bright streak of light over the San Francisco Bay area on Friday night.

Cuba apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to the meteorite that detonated over Russia this week, island media reported, with startled residents describing a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls.

There were no reports of any injuries or damage such as those caused by the Russia meteorite, which sent out shockwaves that hurt some 1,200 people and shattered countless windows.

Cuba apparently experienced a phenomenon similar to the Chelyabinsk meteor several days earlier, island media reported, with startled residents describing a bright light in the sky and a loud explosion that shook windows and walls.

In a video from a state TV newscast posted on the website CubaSi late Friday, unidentified residents of the central city of Rodas, near Cienfuegos, said the explosion was impressive.

''On Tuesday we left home to fish around five in the afternoon, and around 8 p.m. we saw a light in the heavens and then a big ball of fire, bigger than the sun,'' one local man said in the video.