Stirring Mexican volcano closes schools, raises alert
SAN PEDRO BENITO JUAREZ, Mexico, April 18 — A powerful plume of steam and ash rose from the Popocatepetl volcano in central Mexico yesterday, prompting schools to cancel classes and emergency teams to prepare for evacuations.
The volcano’s lava dome started to expand on Friday, suggesting fresh magma may be pushing upwards. It spewed red-hot fragments and lightly dusted cars and streets in some small towns in the state of Puebla, television images showed.
Popocatepetl, which lies some 80km to the southeast of Mexico City, pumped out a cloud of hot air and particles in an emission lasting about 20 minutes yesterday.
“It sounded like a loud cauldron releasing steam,” said Reuters cameraman Roberto Ramirez.
Schools in at least five small towns near the volcano called off classes after the National Centre for Disaster Prevention raised the alert level for the 5,450-metre Popocatepetl late on Monday.
Carlos Gutierrez, head of operations at the centre, told Reuters that the alert could remain for several weeks or months.
The volcano, known by locals as “El Popo” or “Don Goyo”, is clearly visible from Mexico City on a clear day.
For locals in San Pedro Benito Juarez, a small town with a population of just over 4,000 on the flanks of the volcano, people were still able to move about as usual yesterday.
“For the elderly, this is normal,” said Jaime Romero, a construction worker in San Pedro. “Whatever the volcano wants to do is fine. But younger people, like myself, are always alert.”
Emergency crews, which readied residents for potential evacuations, patrolled the area yesterday.
The volcano has spewed smoke and ash sporadically over the past few years. A major eruption in 2000 forced the evacuation of nearly 50,000 residents in three states.
Every March, an indigenous leader from the area leads a celebration to honour Popocatepetl, bringing food, incense and music offerings as the agricultural season kicks off. — Reuters