"I was driving in the car across the square. Suddenly the square lit up with a bright, bright light, not a normal light," said Chelyabinsk resident Vasily Rozhko.
Witnesses of the falling meteor over the Russian Urals spoke of their shock and horror Friday at seeing a giant bright light in the sky that many thought was a crashing plane, followed by a loud explosion that blew out windows in many buildings.
"There were literally three or four seconds of bright light, then back to normal," Rozhko told Russian television. "As I could see from the car, this trail appeared. Then when I was driving, the explosion went off."
Zoya Yermakova, 65, who lives in the Chelyabinsk region over 300 kilomtres from the city, told AFP: "We saw a bright light, it became as light as day for a few minutes. We couldn't understand what it was."
"Everyone was terribly afraid and they are still in shock and not going outside or letting their children out, just in case."
Officials initially made no announcement about the source of the explosion, sparking frenetic speculation among locals, as members of the public turned to the Internet to post homemade videos.
"It was as if a super-fast rocket flew past. One rocket flew past and then another one," one caller, Galina Mikhailova, told local radio in Chelyabinsk soon after the incident.
"We were so scared, we ran out into the hallway... we heard booming explosions," said another caller to the station, who did not give her name.
The first to report the incident were members of the public, the acting head of the emergency situations ministry in the neighbouring Sverdlovsk region, Valery Ustinov, told the Ura.ru regional news website.
"At 9:20 am (0320 GMT) the calls began that people had seen a fiery trail and possibly unidentified objects falling to Earth."
Witnesses posted videos filmed on cell phones showing the flash and the white trail across the blue morning sky.
-- 'What was it -- a plane?' --
Gulnara Dudka filmed the trail of the meteorite over Chelyabinsk, as witnesses shouted "Did something blow up?" and "What was it -- a plane?" in a video she posted on YouTube.
A minute-and-a-half after she began filming, a huge explosion rolled, triggering a chorus of car alarms, followed by several smaller blasts.
"My God!" Dudka can be heard saying. "I thought it had already fallen."
She wrote on YouTube that she began filming a couple of minutes after seeing the flash in the sky.
Life News website posted video footage of children screaming in the corridor of Chelyabinsk School Number 15 and glass and pieces of wood from blown-out windows lying on the floor.
"First there was an unreal light that lit up all the classrooms on the right side of the school. That kind of light doesn't happen in life, only at the end of the world, then a trail appeared like from a plane but only 10 times bigger," teacher Valentina Nikolayeva told Life News.
"First I thought it was a plane falling, but there was no sound from the engine... after a moment a powerful explosion went off," said another Chelyabinsk witness, Denis Laskov.
"In a lot of the houses on our street the windows were blown out."
"There was such a bang, it felt absolutely as if there had been an explosion a few floors higher. The room literally started shaking, a thick layer of dust fell on the floor, furniture and windowsills," Chelyabinsk journalist Yelena Borisova told Channel One television.