The National Disaster Prevention Center (Cenapred) today raised its alert for the Popocatépetl volcano from yellow Phase 2 to yellow Phase 3 due to increased volcanic activity.
El Popo, as the volcano located in Puebla and Morelos is commonly known, recorded one of its strongest explosions in recent years last week and another eruption occurred at 6.50 am today, sending a 2.5-kilometer ash plume into the air.
Several other explosions have occurred in recent weeks.
Cenapred said in a statement issued at 11:00am today that 61 exhalations had occurred at the volcano during the past 24 hours and warned people to not go near the volcano and especially the crater due to the danger of falling ballistic fragments.
The yellow Phase 3 alert is the highest warning level before the red phase in which people living near the volcano are advised to be ready to evacuate. Around 275,000 people live within a 30-kilometer radius of Popocatépetl, which last recorded a major eruption in the year 2000.
Following today’s elevation of the alert level, Civil Protection chief David Romero urged citizens to remain calm, explaining that the increased activity at Popocatépetl represented a “normal change in the volcano.”
However, he added that authorities will carry out inspections of temporary shelters and evacuation routes to ensure that they are ready should the alert level be raised again. A 12-kilometer “security radius” has already been implemented.
Civil Protection authorities in Puebla warned that falling ash could affect the municipalities of Tochimilco, Atzitzihuacan, Huaquechula, Tepemaxalco, Acteopan, Cohuecan, Tepexco, Tepeojuma and Izúcar de Matamoros over the next 12 hours.
In the case of ashfall, Cenapred recommends that people cover their noses and mouths with a handkerchief or face mask, clean their eyes and throats with water, avoid the use of contact lenses to reduce eye irritation and close windows in their homes.