LIMA Dozens of people living in a Peruvian town near Lake Titicaca reported vomiting and headaches after they went to look at a crater apparently left by a meteorite that crashed down over the weekend, health officials said on Tuesday.
After hearing a loud noise, people went to see what had happened and found a crater 65 feet (20 metres) wide and 22 feet (7 metres) deep on an uninhabited plateau near Carancas in the Puno region.
Experts from Peru's Geophysical Institute are on their way to the area 800 miles (1,300 km) south of Lima to verify whether it was a meteorite.
"We've examined about 100 people who got near to the meteorite crater who have vomiting and headaches because of gasses coming out of there," Jorge Lopez, health director in Puno, told Reuters.
"People are scared," he said.
Lopez said people went to the site after hearing a crash that they thought might be an airplane.
"We ourselves went near the crater and now we've got irritated throats and itching noses," Lopez said.
The site is near the border with Bolivia and experts from San Andres university in La Paz said initial analyses of sand samples from the crater showed that it could be a meteorite, according to newspaper reports.
Luisa Macedo, a geologist with the Mining Geology and Metallurgy Institute in Lima, told Reuters the reaction between the elements in a meteorite and the Earth's surface can generate gases that then dissipate.
Meteorites fell in 2002 and 2004 in the Andean area of Arequipa in southern Peru, Hernando Tavera, head of the Peruvian Geophysical Institute, told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Carlos Alberto Quiroga in La Paz)