18.08.31: THE GERMAN nation was in mourning yesterday after a comet fragment hit the city of Frankfurt. The death toll is expected to exceed 100,000.
A swath of surrounding countryside was flattened by the explosion of a fragment of comet the size of a terrace of houses. 'It's far worse than Hiroshima,' says Dag Tegmark, director-general of Uni-Aid. The comet fragment was first spotted by spy satellites in low-Earth orbit. However, its speed was so great - estimates put it between 250,000 and 290,000kmh - that there was no possibility of issuing a useful warning.
People across a large area of western Europe reported a blinding blue fireball ripping through the sky before the comet fragment disintegrated at an altitude of 9.5 km. The sound of the blast, estimated to be equivalent to a 10-megaton bomb, was heard as far away as London, Rome and Moscow.
The United Nations is organising the biggest financial aid package to Germany since the end of the second world war. However, efforts are being hampered by global currency turmoil. Ever since news of the disaster broke, world markets have been in freefall, unable to cope with the loss of such an important financial centre and with rumours that the insurance bill for rebuilding the city could reach E$10,000 billion. MC