Peru meteorite strike leaves 200 ill

LIMA, Sept 18, 2007 (AFP) – About 200 villagers have fallen ill from mysterious gases that spewed from a crater after a meteorite crashed in southeastern Peru, but no radiation has been detected, officials and scientists said Tuesday.

Scores of residents of the farming village of Carancas began vomiting and complaining of headaches and dizziness after the space object struck the area Saturday, creating an eight meter (26-foot) deep, 20 meter (65 foot) wide crater.

“We have determined with precision instruments that there is no radiation,” engineer Renan Ramirez of the Peruvian Nuclear Energy Institute told AFP.

Ramirez said the illnesses may have been triggered by sulfur, arsenic or other toxins that may have melted in the extreme heat produced by the meteorite strike.

“It is a conventional meteorite that, when it struck, produced gases by fusing with elements of the terrain,” he said. He also ruled out that the object was a satellite.

Nestor Quispe, mayor of the nearby town of Desaguadero, said about 200 sick villagers are being treated and that Carancas residents fear that they fear long-term side effects.

There is also “a lot of panic and fear because villagers are afraid that other space objects could