Monday, 4 Dec 2023

Smoke billows from monster ‘El Popo’ volcano putting ’22 million people at risk’

Millions of people are at risk after a previously-dormant volcano has been spotted billowing with smoke.

Popocatepetl – or El Popo, as it is more commonly known – is found 45 miles southeast of Mexico City, and has had a series of relatively small eruptions over the few months, causing ash to fall from the sky and prompting 11 nearby villages to temporarily close their schools. It has been spitting out ash, fumes and lumps of rock on a fairly consistent basis for the last 29 years after it became active again in 1994.

But now, in a scary development which puts more than 22million people at risk, huge explosions have been heard, with masses of thick black smoke seen billowing out of it. The seismic event happened yesterday, and was seen by the experts at the Tlamacas monitoring station nearby.

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And according to the Volcanic Ash Advisor Centre of Washington, the volcanic ash plume “rose up” around 22,000 feet in the area. Earlier this year, experts warned of the real dangers the supervolcano poses if it were to explode.

It sits close enough to the eastern outskirts of Mexico City's metropolitan area to potentially endanger lives, with a severe eruption threatening to cut off air traffic or cover the city in clouds of ash. Ash has already falling in the cities of Puebla and Atlixco in recent months, and experts estimate up to 22million people could be at risk if the volcano were to erupt.

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Popocatepetl has six cameras around its summit, as well as a thermal imaging device and 12 seismological monitoring stations, which are used to monitor the volcano around the clock and feed data back to a command centre in Mexico City. It is thought that the volcano was formed around 200,000 years ago when its ancestor Nexpayantla collapsed during an eruption.

It has erupted 15 times since 1519, but was thought to be largely dormant in recent years, despite its propensity to spew ash and smoke into the air every so often.

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