Yesterday Mexico's Popocatépetl volcano showed increased signs of wrath as it spewed ash plumes, water vapor and hot rocks.
At this time, several media reports indicate scientists do not believe a major eruption is imminent, however everyone is on alert and some of the local schools cancelled classes last week. The Houston Chronicle notes, "with some 25 million people living within the volcano's reach, officials are taking no chances."
Evacuation alerts are presently in effect for about 60,000 residents whose homes lie close to the volcano. According to the Wall Street Journal, officials have evacuation routes established. As Digital Journal reported earlier this week, shelters were being set up as part of a contingency plan against the possibility of Popocatépetl having an eruption sufficiently violent that an evacuation has to be ordered.
"It's our obligation to be alert, keep our guard up," President Felipe Calderon said Friday at a conference outlining the precautionary measures being taken by state and federal government, reported the Chronicle. "We suggest that people teach themselves how to get out … that in the remote chance they have to evacuate, they know exactly how to."
The President recommends residents gather emergency supplies and important items, such as medicine and necessary papers, in case an evacuation order is issued. Many children are walking around wearing surgical masks to protect their young lungs from the ash.
Another concern is the buildup of magma, which might lead to Popocatépetl spewing out substantial amounts of thick ash; these clouds could reach Mexico City, about 40 miles away, and create mayhem at the airport.
Earlier this week authorities raised the alert level to a yellow phase three as Popocatépetl's activity heated up. This alert level is one step away from a red level. The authorities also warned people to keep at least a seven mile perimeter around the volcano clear. Additionally, the region was closed to visitors.
Several media reports note the increased noise the volcano has been making. Some residents are worried about the increased volcanic activity, while others are just going with the flow.
“He’s just breathing up there, that’s all,” Carmela Silvestre, 78, told the New York Times, “We’re used to it.”
The last major eruption Popocatépetl had was in 2000 which led to about 50,000 people being evacuated. San Jose Mercury News reported at least a dozen ash eruptions occurred yesterday within a 12-hour period.
Will Popocatépetl experience a full explosion? The volcano can continue to experience slow releases of pressure, as it is doing now, or could potentially have a major eruption. Right now it's hard to say, but many are getting ready ─ just in case.
"If it comes, it comes directly here," said Blanca Jimenez, 50, who runs a snack stand on the plaza of Xalitzintla, reported the Chronicle. "We are accustomed to all of this so it doesn't frighten us so much. But we have to be prepared; there are many old people and children here."