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Mexico, Popocatépetl volcano: Millions warned to prepare to evacuate as volcano spews ash


Osvaldo Cantero/AFP/Getty Images

The Popocatepetl volcano had been dormant for decades until it erupted in 1994.

Mexico City

Millions of people in Mexico have been warned to prepare for a possible evacuation after increased activity from the country’s most dangerous active volcano, which authorities say has spewed ash into several nearby towns since last week.

Ash from the Popocatépetl volcano, located in a central part of the country, has delayed flights in Mexico City and prompted authorities to close schools in dozens of municipalities.

About 25 million people live within a 60-mile radius of the volcano, which is about 45 miles southeast of Mexico City and located between the states of Morelos, Puebla and Mexico.

On Sunday, the National Civil Protection Coordination (CNPC) raised its volcanic threat level to “yellow stage 3”, urging about 3 million people living in towns and villages adjacent to the volcano to be alert and prepare for a possible evacuation .

The CNPC also warned of greater volcanic activity and the spread of ash to several nearby cities at high speed. It is also recommended that nearby residents avoid outdoor activities.

“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 remain vigilant,” Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said in a tweet on Sunday.

Jose Castañares/AFP/Getty Images

The Popocatépetl volcano spews ash and smoke as seen from Puebal, Puebla state, Mexico, on May 18, 2023.

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, according to airport authorities.

“Air travelers may continue to experience additional flight delays, cancellations or temporary airport closures with little or no warning,” said the US Embassy in Mexico, where the airport is also issuing a similar warning.

State authorities have also suspended in-person classes in schools in 40 municipalities in Puebla, five municipalities in the state of Mexico and seven in Tlaxcala, saying classes will be held remotely.

The US Embassy in Mexico issued a warning on Saturday that the Popocatépetl volcano “has shown increased activity since May 15, recording hundreds of tremors and smoke and ash emissions.”

The embassy also advised people not to travel within a 7.5-mile radius of the volcano, citing warnings from local authorities.

The volcano had been dormant for decades until it erupted in 1994. Since then, its rumble has become a part of daily life for residents.

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