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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Sonic boom startles N Zealanders
A meteor (file image)
The meteor could have been the size of a football
Emergency services in New Zealand were swamped with calls after a sonic boom, probably caused by a meteor, shook the south of the country.

Residents in Christchurch on the South Island said that the huge noise rattled their houses and made the ground shake.

Some witnesses described a bright streak of light in the sky.

The likely cause was a "very low" travelling meteor, a meteorological official said.

"I saw the end of it," Matthew Miller, who was working south of Christchurch, told local radio. "It was quite big and bright and it was just shooting across the sky, then the light went out."

The boom shook buildings and windows across central parts of the South Island.

"It started off with a little boom then a real massive boom. And I mean massive - like the daddy of all booms," Christchurch resident Kevin Graham told the New Zealand Press Association.

"I ran outside because I thought my place was going to collapse as well," he said.

A spokesman for Christchurch emergency services said they were flooded with calls just after the boom, which occurred at 1453 local time (0253 GMT) on Tuesday.

Alan Gilmore of the Mt John Observatory said the meteor was probably between the size of a baseball and a basketball.

The boom would have been caused either by the meteor moving faster than the speed of sound or it burning up in the earth's atmosphere.

There are no reports yet of anyone finding the meteor.

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