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Fatal explosion at southern Indian engineering college caused by suspected meteorite

08 February 2016

One person was killed and three others injured when a heavy object fell close to a building belonging to a private engineering college near Vellore in Tamil Nadu, causing an explosion. The incident happened in the Bharatidasan Engineering college complex at Natarampalli, with eyewitnesses claiming that the object fell from the sky.

Stock image
Stock image

According to the Indian Express, a bus driver working at the college was killed by the object, which created a two-foot deep crater. Three gardeners also suffered injuries and were admitted to a local hospital.

The explosion damaged many glass planes of the college buildings, official sources said, as well as windows in five of the college’s buses.

Initial reports claimed a "drone-like object" was responsible for the blast, but Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa later said the incident was a meteorite strike. The chief minister also announced compensation for the family of the driver who died and the three injured men.

Police initially probed a terror angle but could not find any trace of explosives. They then called in a scientist from the National Physical Laboratory who had been investigating a meteorite that fell in a paddy field in Alangayam village near Vellore on January 26, and he confirmed that this incident was also a meteorite strike.

There has up until now been no official confirmation of any human killed by a meteorite, although a cow was struck dead by one in Venezuela in 1972.

The best-researched similar incident took place in Russia in 2013 when a meteor exploded 30km above Chelyabinsk, generating a powerful shock wave which damaged thousands of buildings, shattered windows and left hundreds injured, mainly from broken glass.

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