Meteor in Peru causing mystery illness?

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

A dozen people in a Peruvian village near the border with Bolivia have fallen mysteriously ill after a suspected meteorite crashed nearby, according to reports from AFP and Peru's Andina News Agency (in Spanish and translated to English here).

Peru's Andina News Agency said the South American nation's regional health directorate sent a group of specialists to take samples of the meteor that supposedly landed nearby.

Residents who came near the 30-metre-wide and six-metre-deep crater reported dizziness and vomiting, according to the news agencies. The AFP also said police who investigated the scene also became ill.

According to the AFP, local official Marco Limache said "boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned."

Conspiracy theorists who watched too many episodes of the X-Files will jump to the usual conclusions: that the meteor was a) an experimental military craft or b) the first warning shot in the upcoming interstellar war.

But it's more likely the meteor hit some pocket of volcanic gas - the area affected is near the volcano Ubinas, which erupted last year.

There's also the outside possibility the residents could have been affected by radiation, according to health official Jorge López Tejada. Living in Peru has a translation of Tejada's statement to Andina, saying "it could be radiation, we don't know, we are assuming, it's worth investigating. Things will be clearer tomorrow."

[Update] A report out of the Associated Press said geologists have confirmed the rock was indeed a meteorite. But the cause of the illness remains a mystery.