Monday, 24 Jun 2024

Millions in Mexico prepared for evacuation as volcano erupts

Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano spewed gas, smoke and ash on Monday (May 22), leading education authorities to suspend in-person classes in parts of three states, a day after the government raised the warning level on the volcano’s activity.

Meanwhile, millions of people have been warned to prepare for a possible evacuation as the volcano has been spewing ash into several nearby towns since last week, while authorities were telling people to stay out of a 7.5-mile radius around the peak. Activity at the 17,797ft mountain, which is just 45 miles south-east of Mexico City and known affectionately as El Popo, has increased over the past week.

The volcano’s activity temporarily halted flights at the capital’s two airports over the weekend.

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“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.

Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport (AICM) was temporarily closed on Saturday and some flights were delayed on Monday due to the presence of volcanic ash.

On Monday, an ash plume extended hundreds of miles to the east, stretching out over the Bay of Campeche, according to a US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

On Sunday, national civil defence co-ordinator Laura Velazquez said at a news conference that the traffic light-style warning system for the volcano remained on yellow, but had risen to phase 3. Still, she said, “there is no risk to the population at this time”.

In this phase, large domes develop and explode in increasing intensity, launching incandescent rock into the air and pyroclastic flows down its flanks.

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Velazquez said only three of the volcano’s 565 explosions since September had been big, and the current activity was not the greatest of this century. The Defence Department said it was prepared to activate 6,500 troops if necessary.

Some 25 million people live within a 60-mile radius, most of those in Mexico City’s metropolitan area. Popocatepetl came to life in 1994 after a decades-long dormancy and experienced periods of greater activity from 2000 to 2003 and 2012 to 2016.

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