Hundreds of people flocked to get medical treatment after an apparent meteorite crashed in a remote part of southern Peru over the weekend, health officials said.

The fiery ball that witnesses sayfell from the sky Saturday morningsmashed into the Andean plain near the Bolivian border, leaving a crater 30 metres wide and six metres deep.

Scientists are on their wayto the siteto collect samples in order to verify whether the crater was caused by a meteorite.

About600 people sought medical treatment after visiting the site, authorities say.

Jorge Lopez, the health director in Puno, say most complained of headaches, vomiting and nausea that they believe was caused by noxious fumes from the crater.

A local resident told the BBC that the object is buried in the ground. "That is why we are asking for an analysis, because we are worried for our people. They are afraid. A bull is dead and some other animals are already sick," said Heber Mamani.

Experts have said a meteorite can react with elements in the earth when it strikes the surface, producing gases that later dissipate.

Three geologists from Peru's Geophysics Institute are expected to present a report on the incident Thursday.

But meteor expert Ursula Marvin questioned the theory, saying the health problems were not likely from a meteorite itself but the dust it raised.

A meteorite "wouldn't get much gas out of the Earth," said Marvin, who has studied the objects since 1961 at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts. "It's a very superficial thing."

Hernando Tavera, a geophysicist at the institute, said similar cases were reported in 2002 and 2004 elsewhere in southern Peru but never confirmed as meteorites.

With files from the Associated Press