Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, has said a
bus driver at a college in her state was killed by the meteorite and
awarded 100,000 rupees ($1,470) in compensation to his family.
"A meteorite fell within the college premises," Jayalalithaa said.
The man "sustained serious injuries and died while on the way to the
Jayalalithaa, a former film star, left tight-lipped local officials
struggling to explain the mystery blast at the engineering college
that left a small crater and broke windows.
The bus driver was standing on a patch of grass near the college
cafeteria when he was killed, while two gardeners and a student were
injured, officials said. A dark blue stone resembling a diamond was
found at the scene.
Government officials at first suspected the blast was caused by
explosives accidentally left after building work. However,
investigations found no evidence of explosive material at the site.
"When no evidence of explosive material was found, we moved to the
theory that it might be a meteorite," said a district official who
asked not be named. "It is not confirmed yet as samples need to be
A team from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics was expected to
visit on Tuesday to collect samples.
G. Baskar, the principal of the college in Vellore district, was
working in his cabin when he heard an explosion.
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"It was a sound like nothing I've ever heard before," he said.
"There was no smell at all, no fire, nothing."
The last reported death from a meteorite strike was in 1825,
according to a list kept by International Comet Quarterly, a
Simon Goodwin, an astrophysics expert from Britain's University of
Sheffield, said meteorite deaths were rare because the rocks usually
burn up when passing through the Earth's atmosphere or land in the
ocean or hit remote areas.
"When you look at the fraction of the Earth's surface that is
heavily populated, it's not very much," he said.
In 2013, a meteorite exploded over central Russia, raining fireballs
over a vast area and causing a shock wave that smashed windows,
damaged buildings and injured 1,200 people.
(Editing by Andrew MacAskill and Nick Macfie)
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