Scientists say the latest noise is consistent with the volcano’s long history of eruptions, but they warned that ash could fall for weeks and urged people to be careful. Officials say the heavy ash has already caused health risks and could cause more.
The National Civil Protection Coordination (CNPC), Mexico’s disaster management agency, has raised the risk of a volcanic eruption to a “Yellow Phase 3” warning, warning people to evacuate. Under the current warning system, large lava chambers can grow rapidly and erupt “more and more,” sending rocks and ash into the atmosphere.
The CNPC also warned of fire and ash scattering in several nearby towns across three states – Mexico, Morelos and Puebla – in the center of the country.
The Popocatépetl ash plume, known among Mexicans as “El Popo,” has caused chaos in the region. Mexico City’s two airports were temporarily suspended Saturday, and many flights were delayed afterward, according to local media; The air pollution prompted authorities to close schools and switch to online classes in several Mexican cities, including Puebla and Tlaxcala, officials said. Hospitals and clinics in five countries have increased preparedness for potential injuries.
The Secretary of Public Health of the State of Puebla, Jose Antonio Martinez Garcia, he said On Tuesday, 165 people living near the mountain received medical treatment due to the ash, including 133 patients with laryngitis.
About 25 million people live within 60 kilometers of the mountain.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday that more than 7,000 soldiers would be sent to help evacuation routes, set up shelters and prepare roads for people to escape quickly “if necessary.”
Residents can be more motivated when the volcano erupts, Obrador said, “than when it’s quiet.” He said he is in contact with state and local officials who are assessing the situation.
In the event of an eruption, authorities may consider evacuating 3.5 million people living in 30 towns in “high” and “intermediate” areas near the volcano, according to emergency plans.
“In the case of Mexico City, the threat is falling ash,” said Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum in a tweet Sunday. “We are prepared for those events, and we know what to do. Let’s be vigilant.”
Mexican authorities have warned people living near the volcano to wear masks, goggles and long sleeves to protect them from the ash, to avoid exercising outdoors, to shut off water, to close doors and windows and to wear wet clothes and to learn how to escape.
The US embassy in Mexico issued a warning at the end of the week, saying that the Popocatépetl volcano “has shown increased activity since May 15, which is causing great shocks and ash emissions.” It also recommended that people avoid traveling within 7.5 kilometers of the mountain.
The 17,883-foot-tall, snow-capped mountain had been dormant for years before erupting in 1994, according to National Disaster Prevention Center. Since then, the people of the country have become accustomed to the noise and occasional spitting of ash. In 2000, a big explosion started displacement of about 50,000 people from the region.
On Monday, scientists from the Department of Volcanology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico compared the current event with more than 12 other events that have occurred since the year 1500. They said that it is not “new or surprising.”
Since 1996, scientists have observed 86 such events, when “volcanic rocks grow inside the volcano and break up due to the eruption of the volcano,” said Servando de la Cruz Reyna, a researcher at the Department of Volcanology .
“This is not something new in the history of Mexico,” he said of the recent work at Popocatépetl, which means “smoking mountain” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec culture spoken in Central Mexico.
“But it is something that we are now able to witness, measure and understand in a better way,” he added.