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According to a Reuters news story based on local reports from Bogota, a meteorite may have triggered a fire that killed four small children in central Colombia on Sunday evening, December 14, 1997.
Bogota's El Espectador newspaper quoted witnesses, including the children's father and local firefighters, as saying "fireballs" had been spotted raining down from the sky in the impoverished area of Huila province where the children died in the house fire on Sunday evening.
Capt. Carlos Augusto Rojas of the fire department in Pitalito, a town three miles from the village where the fire occurred, said the house had no electricity and other possible causes of the blaze -- including a candle or gas lamp -- had been ruled out.
Speaking in an interview with the Radionet all-news radio program, Rojas said he saw three distant fireballs in the sky when he arrived to fight the blaze.
He said no evidence of a meteorite had been found inside the house where the children were killed in their sleep.
But he said a hole, measuring about 10 inches in diameter, was discovered in the zinc roof of the house, along with traces of a sulphur-like substance that was being studied in a local laboratory. The hole in the roof had been punched from the outside, Rojas said, adding that everything seemed to indicate the children were the unwitting victims of a meteorite.
Six days earlier, on December 9 at about 5 a.m., a giant flash split the darkness over Greenland. The flash was reported by three fishermen working off Greenland's east coast. A parking lot surveillance camera in Nuuk, the territory's capital on the west coast, also recorded a brief illumination at that time.
According to an AP story dated Dec 16, Danish Air Force planes were searching the vast white expanse of southern Greenland for traces of a large meteor believed to have struck the ice-capped island.
"According to the accounts, the flash was so huge that we have good reason to believe that this is a giant (meteor)," said Bjoern Franck Joergensen of the Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen.
According to a BBC report on December 17, the meteorite was believed to have fallen near the town of Qaqortoq. Bjorn Ericksonn, the first mate on the trawler Regina, saw the object fall.
"I was on the bridge and looking out of the window. I have never seen so strong light before in the night," he said. "In the strongest part of the light, there looked like a circle that was burning."
Professor Chandra Wickramasingha from Cardiff University said that seismographic equipment recorded a 10 second shockwave. Scientists believe the early indications are that the meteorite could have measured between 50 and 100 metres across, and have been travelling at 7,600 mph.
Such a large meteorite would cause tremendous destruction if it fell on a populated area.
According to a NASA statement, "The flashes observed in conjunction with the meteorite were so bright as to turn night into daylight at a distance of 100 kilometers and can be compared to the light af a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere. However, we stress that there is no reason to believe other than natural causes."
Finding the meteorite will be difficult, since it probably fell on the icecap and immediately melted deep into the ice. Winter Arctic storms will further hamper the search.
Yet another giant meteor may have been responsible for a "fireball" that lit up the twilight sky over New Lenox, southwest of Chicago, Illinois on Sunday, November 30. But some witnesses said the brilliant object was moving too slowly to be a meteor, prompting speculation about a plane crash or a UFO.
According to a Dec 3 report in the Chicago Sun Times, Tinley Park businessman and pilot Tim Janecyk, one of three people who reported the phenomenon to police, was driving west on Interstate 80 with his girlfriend when, off to the left, he saw "a brilliant fireball descend from the clouds straight down."
The object, the size of a full moon, lit up the clouds, trailing a column of smoke, Janecyk said. It appeared to be descending about 125 to 150 m.p.h., he said. "It was too slow for a meteor," said Janecyk, a private pilot for eight years. Within 20 seconds, it disappeared behind some trees, he said.
Janecyk called New Lenox police, who notified Will County sheriff's police. Officers investigated but found nothing, said Lt. Mike Moran.
A search by Will County sheriff's police found no evidence of debris, and the FAA reported no planes missing or sightings on radar. "We looked into it, and there is no aviation connection that we can determine," FAA spokesman Don Zochert said.
Still another huge fireball was sighted over the Midwestern United States on December 12. As reported in the Associated Press, a mysterious flash of light prompted calls to authorities in four states and led to a brief search for an overdue plane.
The light -- described by many as a glowing orange or red -- was seen about 8 p.m. on Friday, December 12 across hundreds of miles, from Minnesota and Wisconsin south into Iowa and northern Missouri.
"It was a good-sized red ball," said Wylie Peterson of Colfax, Wisconsin. "It had a pretty good tail behind it. It was too big to be a flare."
A search was organized after a private airplane was reported overdue at the Boyceville, Wisconsin airport, but was later suspended. Astronomy experts at the University of Minnesota and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, said the phenomenon was best explained by a meteor burning through the Earth's atmosphere.
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