The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

February 16, 2013

Cleanup begins after meteor

MOSCOW — The big blast from outer space was still reverberating in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Saturday, as glaziers went to work replacing windows, divers vainly sought meteorite fragments at the bottom of a lake, doctors tended the wounded, residents found new ways to doubt the authorities and seemingly everyone looked expectantly to Moscow for the flood of cash that rolls in on the heels of catastrophe.

Regional Gov. Mikhail Yurevich felt the need to deny that some residents had broken their own windows in the aftermath of Friday's meteor to qualify for financial assistance. Even if that were true, though, it would be small potatoes compared to the compensation in store.

As early as Friday evening, the governor had announced that, throughout the city, 200,000 square meters of glass would have to be replaced. That's just about 50 acres' worth — all of it paid for by the government. That no one could have made such a calculation with any degree of accuracy in just a few hours was beside the point. Here was an unexpected opportunity to place a very large order.

Yurevich estimated the total damage at about $33 million, but several officials suggested that figure will rise.

" 'Force majeure' circumstances are always a gift to the authorities," said Gleb Pavlovsky, a leading political consultant in Moscow, "because you can just write off everything that's stolen."

Mere hours after the meteor streaked across the sky and then broke into pieces with devastating force, Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, pushed for plans for a terrestrial defense system to protect against future meteors, asteroids and comets and their sonic booms. As of Friday night, Pavlovsky said, government scientists were saying those plans would cost about $2 billion, but on Saturday morning, "after Moscow woke up," the projected price tag had doubled.

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