Millions on High Alert as Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano Spews Ash and Rock
After more than a week of fierce growls, the Popocatépetl volcano has put millions of Mexicans on evacuation alert.
The nearly 17,800-foot volcanic mountain, known to residents as “El Popo,” has increased its activity, spewing gas, ash, and incandescent rock into the air, the Associated Press reported.
Popocatépetl’s increased activity has forced the government to close schools in adjacent municipalities and raise the alarm level.
Morelos, Puebla, and the state of Mexico have been clouded by ash, and the National Civil Protection Coordination (CNPC) asked people living near the volcano to prepare for a possible evacuation.
“In the case of Mexico City, the risk is ash fall. We are prepared for that scenario, and we know what to do. Let’s stay alert,” Mexico City’s mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said in a tweet on Sunday.
For her part, the national coordinator of Civil Protection, Laura Velázquez, told a news conference that only three of the volcano’s 565 explosions since September had been significant and that the current activity was not the largest this century.
For years, Popocatépetl has been called ‘the sleeping giant’
Popocatépetl is one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes and definitely the most famous. The mountain has had more than 15 major eruptions since the arrival of the Spanish in 1519.
The volcano is 43 miles southeast of Mexico City and, until recently, was one of only three high peaks in Mexico that still contained glaciers.
In the 1990s, the glaciers, such as the North Glacier, significantly decreased in size, partly due to warmer temperatures but primarily due to increased volcanic activity.
Its name comes from the Nahuatl words popõca (smokes) and tepētl (mountain).
Researchers have determined several massive eruptions dating back as far as 3,000 years ago. The last two, 2,150 and 1,100 years ago, buried the nearby town of Tetimpa.
The last major eruption of Popocatépetl was in 1947. But in 1994, the volcano spewed gas and ash that reached 16 miles away thanks to the wind. In 2000, the volcano showed its highest activity in 1,200 years.
However, this Sunday, the Mexican government raised the volcano’s alert level to “yellow phase 3,” just below the “red” alarm level.
While the yellow phase presents low to intermediate explosive eruptive activity, the National Center for Disaster Prevention warned that magma ejection is also possible.
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