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26 Oct, 2009 11:31

Huge UFO hits Latvia?

A small Latvian town has become famous overnight with reports of a UFO crash. An unidentified flaming object allegedly fell from the sky creating a huge crater, Sunday. However, scientists are calling it a hoax.

Initially, experts assumed that the crater, in the town of Mazsalaca, could be either a meteorite or a fragment of a space satellite. Later in the day, yet another version, this time official, appeared – the crater was created artificially.

Latvian geologists, along with their Estonian colleagues from the University of Tartu, have investigated the site and announced that the pit had been dug by people. “This is currently our official version,” said Girts Stinkulis from the Latvian State University.

Stinkulis says the experts’ opinion is now “clear and unambiguous. There are traces of spade-work on the lip of the crater, as well as cut pieces of grass. Besides, the proportions of the crater are atypical – the mound of debris is too tall, while the pit is too large,” he said, before adding: “The pit lip is too vertical, and most probably an aluminum powder was burnt in the crater.”

Meanwhile, the police say if the scientists’ information turns true the plotters will be brought to trial.

”These people should be punished. I think they will have to pay for the works of all special services at the site during the day. One should be answerable for this hoax,” said Latvia’s Interior Minister Linda Murnietze.

Initial reports suggested an unknown object fell near a residential house in Mazsalaca, 15 km from the Estonian border. Nobody was injured and no damage was reported. The object left a crater some 20 meters in diameter and 10 meters deep.

According to a spokesperson for the Latvian State Fire and Rescue Service (GPSS), Inga Vetere, police immediately cordoned off the territory and started an investigation. “We’re not sure whether or not it was a meteorite, because eyewitnesses saw something fall from the sky, and right after that there was a fire. Now it’s vitally important to measure radioactivity”, said Vetere.

Pros and Cons

Experts with the Latvian Radiation Center tested the object and found a slightly increased radiation level in the center of the crater, but still within normal limits. The surrounding area was found to be radiation free. Nevertheless, it’s too early to rule out a radioactive contamination threat.

GPSS specialists have yet to discover the remains of the object. The territory around the crater was put under the strict control of the police and national military forces.

A specialist from the Astronomy Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN), Lidia Rikhlova, says the UFO was a meteorite. She dismisses the satellite version, explaining that a space vehicle couldn’t have left a crater of such a large size.

Rikhlova’s colleague from the Astronomy Institute of the Latvian University, Ilgonis Wilks, says the meteorite is the biggest in the country’s history. “Given the information that I possess, it was a meteorite that crashed in Mazsalaca. Our country has seen meteorites fall before, but the craters have never been this large. In the 19th Century, four meteorites fell, but the depth of the craters didn’t exceed a few dozens centimeters”, says Wilks.

Latvian geologist Dainis Ozols attributes the appearance of the mysterious crater to an elaborate human hoax. “The crater where the meteorite supposedly landed has been excavated by people and the fire was caused by an inflammatory mix of niter and sulfur”, says Ozols. In his view, someone has burned chemicals in the crater, filmed it and set off a meteorite rumor.