Popocatepetl Volcano Threatening to Erupt, 19 Million Prepare to Evacuate

The Popocatepetl volcano is making movement and threatening to erupt, causing Mexican officials to raise the alert level from yellow phase three to yellow phase two.

The volcano has already begun spewing red-hot bits of rock, and its opening has expanded. These are signs that the volcano, still quite active, could soon erupt. In a statement by Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention, the volcano could produce "moderate exhalations, some with ash, sporadic low to moderate explosions with likely burning fragments, and flaming magma within the crater."

Residents and tourists have been advised to remain at least seven miles away from the volcano's base, lest magma or hot rock injure anyone. Mexico has been experiencing natural disasters with increasing frequency.

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On Friday, officials at the U.S. Geological Survey reported a 5.4 magnitude earthquake six miles off Mexico's Pacific Coast. It was powerful enough to shake buildings 230 miles away in Mexico City. Thankfully no one was hurt in that earthquake, and the country was left relatively unscathed.

A 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit just two days earlier, again not injuring anyone but leaving Mexico City residents shaken. According to Reuters, it was the third earthquake in less than one month. The last major earthquake struck on March 20, injuring 11 in Oaxaca and two in Mexico.

The Popocatepetl volcano last erupted in 2000, and in 2005 it released a high volume of smoke and ash. Lava was also released during 2005, and since then it has remained relatively quiet. Only in 2012 has it begun moving and acting again.

According to the Global Volcanism Program, Popocatepetl is the Aztec word for "Smoking Mountain" and is the second-highest volcano in North America, measuring 17,802 feet in elevation.

Reuters is reporting that several schools have closed in light of the level change and residents are beginning to evacuate the city. If it fully erupted, over 19 million residents would be affected.

"For the elderly, this is normal," Jaime Romero of San Pedro Benito Juarez told Reuters. "Whatever the volcano wants to do is fine. But younger people, like myself, area always alert."


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