Special Report 
Death and Property Damage due to MeteorDestruction

Meteorite suspectedin 
fatal house fire 

* Reuters NewsAgency
December 16,1997

BOGOTA (Reuters)- A meteorite may have triggered a fire that killed four small childrenin central Colombia, local media reports said Tuesday.

Bogota's El Espectadornewspaper quoted witnesses, including the children's father and local firefighters,as saying "fireballs" had been spotted raining down from the sky in theimpoverished area of Huila province where the children died in the housefire on Sunday evening.

The children, allunder six, were alone in their ramshackle house when the fire broke outand authorities initially suspected a candle or electrical short circuit.

But Capt. CarlosAugusto Rojas of the fire department in Pitalito, a town three miles fromthe village where the fire occurred, said the house had no electricityand other possible causes of the blaze -- including a candle or gas lamp-- had been ruled out.

Speaking in an interviewwith the Radionet all-news radio program, Rojas said he saw three distantfireballs in the sky when he arrived to fight the blaze.

He said no evidenceof a meteorite had been found inside the house where the children werekilled in their sleep.

But he said a hole,measuring about 10 inches in diameter, was discovered in the zinc roofof the house, along with traces of a sulphur-like substance that was beingstudied in a local laboratory.

The hole in the roofhad been punched from the outside, Rojas said, adding that everything seemedto indicate the children were the unwitting victims of a meteorite.

End of article


There are severalprevious cases which indicate injury, death or property damage attributableto falling meteors. 

* An extraordinaryevent happening in Teheran, Iran on August 15, 1951, in which a rain ofmeteorites killed twelve persons, injured nineteen and took a heavy tollof livestock near Shiraz, in southwestern Iran. The event was reportedby Iranian newspapers and The United Press. Sixty-two houses were saidto have been destroyed by the meteoric shower.

* An Alabama womanreportedly was bruised by an incoming space projectile in 1954.

* In July of 1988,scientists at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio investigatedan incident in which a fist-sized hole was punched through the roof ofa house under construction in Highland County, Ohio.

* In 1992, a 28-poundchunk of extraterrestrial rock pierced through a car fender in Peekskill,N.Y. 


Above: The Peekskill Meteorite smashedinto this parked Chevrolet Malibu on October 9, 1992. Thousands in theNew York area saw the fireball, and some witnesses actually videotapedit streaking across the night sky. Using those tapes, astronomers havecalculated the trajectory and original orbit of the meteorite. Some evenspeculate that the meteorite's orbit and composition point to its havingoriginated as part of the asteroiod 6 Hebe. 

Source: Scientific America Quarterly,The Magnificent Cosmos
Volume 1, Number 9, 1998

The following article referencesa case of property damage due to suspected meteoric bombardment:


The Cincinnati Enquirer
April 25, 1897

Special Dispatch to The Enquirer

Columbus, Ohio, April 24 - The burstingof a meteor and a fragment from it caused a fire in some refuse near thebarn of S.W. Beebe, at 1024 Franklin avenue tonight. The damage was slight.The noise of the fragments flying 
through the air attracted a numberof people before any particular damage was done.


Many experts wrongly believe there havebeen no recorded deaths due to asteroid strikes, acknowledging only thatthere have been some close calls from small meteorites striking cars andhouses. However, planetologist John S. Lewis asserts in recent researchthat meteorites have in fact caused thousands of deaths throughout recordedhistory. Lewis details 123 cases of deaths, injuries, and property damagecaused by ECO impacts reported over approximately a two-hundred-year periodalone. 

Injuries and Deaths Caused by MeteorImpacts 
Source:  John S. Lewis, "Rain of Iron and Ice "
(Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996),176-82

  • 1420 BC - Israel - Fatal meteorite impact. 
  • 588 AD China - 10 deaths; siege towersdestroyed. 
  • 1321-68 China - People & animals killed;homes ruined. 
  • 1369 Ho-t'ao China - Soldier injured; fire. 
  • 02/03/1490 Shansi, China - 10,000 deaths. 
  • 09/14/1511 Cremona, Italy - Monk, birds,& sheep killed. 
  • 1633-64 Milono, Italy - Monk killed. 
  • 1639 China - Tens of deaths; 10 homes destroyed. 
  • 1647-54 Indian Ocean - 2 sailors killedaboard a ship. 
  • 07/24/1790 France - Farmer killed; homedestroyed; cattle killed. 
  • 01/16/1825 Oriang, India - Man killed;woman injured. 
  • 02/27/1827 Mhow, India - Man injured. 
  • 12/11/1836 Macao, Brazil - Oxen killed;homes damaged. 
  • 07/14/1847 Braunau, Bohemia - Home struckby 371 lb meteorite. 
  • 01/23/1870 Nedagolla, India - Man stunnedby meteorite. 
  • 06/30/1874 Ming Tung li, China - Cottagecrushed, child killed. 
  • 01/14/1879 Newtown, Indiana, USA - Mankilled in bed. 
  • 01/31/1879 Dun-Lepoelier, France - Farmerkilled by meteorite. 
  • 11/19/1881 Grossliebenthal, Russia - Maninjured. 
  • 03/11/1897 West Virginia, USA - Walls pierced,horse killed, man injured. 
  • 09/05/1907 Weng-li, China - Whole familycrushed to death. 
  • 06/30/1908 Tunguska, Siberia - Fire, 2people killed. 
  • 04/28/1927 Aba, Japan - Girl injured bymeteorite. 
  • 12/08/1929 Zvezvan, Yugoslavia - Meteoritehit bridal party, 1 killed. 
  • 05/16/1946 Santa Ana, Mexico - Houses destroyed,28 injured. 
  • 11/30/1946 Colford, UK - Telephones knockedout, boy injured. 
  • 11/28/1954 Sylacauga, Alabama, USA - 4kg meteorite struck home, lady injured. 
  • 08/14/1992 Mbole, Uganda - 48 stones fell,roofs damaged, boy injured. 

More recently, on 8 December1992, a large asteroid named Toutatis missed earth by only two lunar distances.This was a fortunate day for everyone on earth, because this asteroid wasnearly 4 kilometers in diameter. If Toutatis had impacted earth, the forceof the collision would have generated more energy than all the nuclearweapons in existence combined-equal to approximately 9 x 106 megatons ofTNT.

Finally, if you were standing on KosraeIsland, off the New Guinea coast on 1 February 1994, you would have witnesseda blast in the sky as bright as the sun. A small meteor traveling at approximately33,500 miles per hour had entered the earth's atmosphere. Fortunately,the meteor exploded at high altitude, over a sparsely populated region;the blast equaling 11 kilotons (KT) of TNT.13 

Returnto MAIN PAGEE-mail Questionsor Comments