Residents near the volcano outside Mexico City are preparing to evacuate. NPR:

Mexico’s El Popo volcano rumbles and spews ash as people living in its shadow prepare for a possible evacuation.



JUANA SUMMERS, host.

A volcano in Mexico known as El Popo has been spewing a toxic mixture of ash and smoke for the past few days. Now residents living in its shadow have been told to prepare for possible evacuation. Ash from the volcano has delayed flights from Mexico City and forced authorities to close schools in nearby cities, James Fredrick reports.

JAMES FREDERICK, BYLINE. The haze that often shrouds Mexico City can obscure the view and make it easy to forget the glacier-topped mountain range that winds southeast of the city. But one of those peaks reminds locals of its presence with a light dusting of ash covering sidewalks and windshields. 45 miles from Mexico City, Popocatepetl, a magnificent cone-shaped volcano 17,900 feet high, is waking up a bit. It periodically spews steam and ash and occasionally erupts more violently, sending boulders flying out of the crater. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says they are watching closely and are ready.

PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR. (Speaks Spanish).

FREDERICK: He says they have been working since the strong eruptions first started. Thousands of National Guard troops are on standby and ready to assist with evacuations if activity intensifies. A dusting of ash and a distant rumble are not unheard of. Popocatepetl had similar activity in 1994 and the early 2000s and again between 2012 and 2016. There has been no catastrophic eruption since the 9th century. But with more than 25 million people living within a 60-mile radius of the volcano, most of them in Mexico City, it’s hard not to worry a little. Authorities recently upgraded the traffic light warning system to stage three yellow, one step away from the dangerous red signal.

LAURA VELAZQUEZ. (Speaks Spanish).

FREDERICK: Laura Velázquez, national civil defense coordinator, says they are preparing personnel, evacuation equipment and shelters if they are needed. In the last 24 hours, El Popo’s monitoring team recorded two large explosions, five emissions of steam, volcanic gas and ash, and near-constant tremors. Popocatepetl, which means smoking mountain in Nahuatl, is not yet a threat to humans. For now, the authorities urge to keep calm. The time-lapse footage of the volcano early this morning as it lit up the night sky with its eruptions is terrifying but undeniably beautiful. For NPR News, I’m James Fredrick in the shadow of Mexico City’s Popocatepetl.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAREN MORRIS, “GIRL”)

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