On Saturday, a mysterious explosion was reported at the Bharathidasan Engineering College, in Tamil Nadu, which resulted in the death of a bus driver and injuries for three others. If we are to believe the statement issued by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday regarding the event, then Kamaraj’s would be the first confirmed death of a person caused by a meteorite. “A mishap occurred yesterday when a meteorite fell in the campus of a private engineering college in Vellore district’s K Pantharappalli village,” she said in a release.
Allegedly, the meteorite struck the ground as Kamaraj was walking by one of the college buildings, leaving an affermath of shattered windows and a crater in the Earth’s surface. Having sustained serious injuries, he was rushed to the hospital where on Saturday, he was pronounced dead. Rs.100,000 has been promised to the family of the deceased and Rs.25,000 to the three injured. A study conducted in 1996 holds that anywhere between 18,000 to 84,000 meteorites make it to the Earth's surface every year. The likelihood of deaths occurring as a direct result of these celestial events is very low, while odds of a fatality from an impact are estimated to be 1 in 250,000 and Kamaraj’s death sadly marks that one rare event.
There have been a few close calls that have been recorded through history, however. Harvard’s International Comet Quarterly compilation makes an interesting read as they collate some of the interesting meteorite falls that have occurred over the last two centuries. The most recent on the list is from 2013 when an extremely bright ‘fireball’ exploded over Chelyabinsk, in Russia, causing a huge air-blast that damaged hundreds of buildings and injured over 1,000 people; the brightness of the fireball is stated to be rivalling that of the Sun. Despite its magnitude and the huge amounts of damage, the blazing light caused severe eye pain and even temporary blindness among many people, there was no loss of life. There are quite a few unconfirmed stories of this nature throughout history, such as that of a Chinese woman, who in 1915 claims she had her arm torn off by a direct strike, and a Ugandan boy who was says he was struck by a small meteorite after it rebounded from a nearby tree. An incident that was confirmed was that of Ann Elizabeth Hodges who was sleeping on her couch, home in Alabama 1915, when an object about the size of a grapefruit burst through roof and hit her after bouncing off a radio set; she was severely bruised and survived to tell the highly unusual tale.
Feature image courtesy www.sott.net
Words: Sara Hussain