Ball Of Fire Hits Sri Lanka
Colombo (AFP) Sept 17, 2002
A suspected meteorite crashed in a ball of fire in Sri Lanka, burning down trees and scattering particles over a celebrated giant rock, officials and scientists said.

Residents of Dimbulagala, 220km north of Colombo, reported "a strange light which they had seen descending from the sky" three weeks ago, said Parakrama Beligammana, the chief state administrative officer in the region.

He travelled on Sunday to the city, where he said trees had been burnt down and particles from what seemed to be a meteorite were scattered over half a hectare.

The pieces fell on a famous 4km rock that is home to an ancient Buddhist temple.

The particles "were quite heavy because of its high density and were bluish-black in colour", Beligammana said.

Chandana Jayaratne, a senior physics lecturer at Colombo University, said he was looking at the particles and that if they are confirmed to be from a meteorite they will be sent for verification to the US space agency NASA.

"They look like particles from a meteorite but until the tests are done nothing can be said," Jayaratne told AFP.

Beligammana said it was unlikely the trees were burnt by bushfire because they were on the centre of the rock where fires are difficult to spread.

Dimbulagala, home to 73,000 people of the majority Sinhalese community, has over the years come under heavy attack by Tamil Tiger rebels.

But the government and the guerrillas have been observing a truce since February 23 and yesterday opened historic peace talks in Thailand.

Meteorwrongs in the News