updated 9/12/2006 10:29:31 PM ET 2006-09-13T02:29:31

Hundreds of people called emergency services to report a sonic boom Tuesday that scientists said was probably caused by a small meteor.

Residents in the southern city of Christchurch told police and fire services that the boom shook the ground and their houses.

The resident superintendent of the Mount John Observatory, Allan Gilmore, told National Radio the sonic boom indicated the meteor was traveling "very low" and was probably between the size of a baseball and a basketball.

Witnesses said they saw a streak of light in the sky above the sparsely populated region.

Sonic booms are created when an object moves through the air faster than the speed of sound, about 700 mph (1,120 kilometers per hour).

"I saw the end of it, it was quite big and bright and it was just shooting across the sky, then the light went out," Matthew Miller, who was working about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Christchurch, told National Radio.

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