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Residents near volcano outside Mexico City prepare to evacuate: NPR

The volcano, popularly known as “El Popo” in Mexico, rumbles and spews ash, as people living in its shadow prepare for a possible evacuation.


For the past few days in Mexico, the volcano popularly known as El Popo has been spitting out a toxic mixture of ash and smoke. Now the residents who live in its shadow have been ordered to prepare for a possible evacuation. Ash from the volcano has delayed flights from Mexico City and forced authorities to close schools in nearby towns, as reported by James Fredrick.

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: The smog that so often blankets Mexico City can obscure the view and make it easy to overlook the glacier-topped mountain range that surrounds the southeast of the city. But one of those woodpeckers reminded residents of its presence via a light dusting of ash covering sidewalks and windshields. Popocatepetl, the towering, majestically conical 17,900-foot volcano 45 miles outside Mexico City, is waking up a bit. It regularly spewed out steam and ash and sometimes exploded more violently, sending rocks flying out of the crater. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says they are watching closely and are ready.


FREDRICK: He says they’ve been working since the big eruptions started. Thousands of National Guard troops stand by and are ready to assist with evacuations if activity escalates. The dusting of ash and the distant rumbling is not unprecedented. Popocatepetl had similar activity in 1994 and the early 2000s, and again from 2012 to 2016. There has not been a catastrophic eruption since the 9th century. But with more than 25 million people living within 60 miles of the volcano, most of them in Mexico City, it’s hard not to be a little worried. Authorities recently raised the red light warning system to phase three yellow, one step away from the dangerous red alert.

LAURA VELAZQUEZ: (speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: Laura Velazquez, the national civil protection coordinator, says they are preparing personnel, evacuation materials and shelters if needed. In the past 24 hours, the El Popo monitoring team recorded two major explosions, five emissions of steam, volcanic gases and ash, and near-constant tremors. Popocatepetl, which means smoking mountain in Nahuatl, is not yet a threat to man. For now, the authorities are calling for calm. Time-lapse videos of the volcano early this morning as it lit up the night sky with its eruptions are terrifying but undeniably beautiful. For NPR News, I’m James Fredrick, in the shadow of Popocatepetl in Mexico City.


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