Residents and tourists in a town in western Cuba saw a flare pass through the sky and heard an explosion Friday in what state media and scientists say was likely a meteorite.
Witnesses reported seeing a ball of fire and a smoke trail in a clear midday sky, and a rain of small black stones fell on the tourist town of Vinales and other parts of Pinar del Rio province. Explosions were also heard and a smoke trail seen in Havana. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
“We were coming from the center … and we saw a ball of fire cross the sky,” said Spanish tourist Jesus Nicolas, 34, in Havana. “Sure it was a meteorite and a very big one.”
Amid speculation on social media, state media in Cuba denied that a plane had crashed and called it a “natural, physical phenomenon.”
Efren Jaimez Salgado, head of the Environmental Geology, Geophysics and Risks department of Cuba’s Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy, told state newspaper Granma that all signs point to a meteorite and that a team had been sent to Pinar del Rio to collect and analyze samples.
Jaimez said preliminary information suggests that a meteorite or meteorite fragments struck an area near the Mural of Prehistory in Vinales.
Photos published showed small black stones which when split open had dark red veins.
People in the archbishopric of Pinar del Rio confirmed that two strong explosions were heard and in rural areas of the province rumblings were heard and some houses shuddered.
@NWSKeyWest radar may have detected the meteor that affected western Cuba earlier today. At 121 pm, a signature was detected near Viñales, Cuba, at a height of over 26,000 ft above ground level. #flwx #KeyWest #FloridaKeys #meteor pic.twitter.com/R2JIlVwpsS
— NWS Key West (@NWSKeyWest) February 1, 2019