Mexico raises alert for Popocatepetl volcano

MEXICO CITY Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:52am EDT

1 of 2. The Popocatepetl volcano spews a cloud of ash and steam high into the air as seen from Puebla, 100 km (62 miles) east of Mexico City April 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Imelda Medina

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican authorities raised the alert level for the Popocatepetl volcano near to Mexico City on Monday after it started spewing red-hot fragments of rock.

The lava dome of Popocatepetl, some 50 miles to the southeast of the capital, started to expand on Friday, Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention said.

This change in activity in the 5,450 meter (17,900 foot) volcano could provoke big explosions capable of sending incandescent fragments out over considerable distances, as well as ash showers, the center said in a statement.

The center raised the alert level to yellow phase three from yellow phase two, indicating possible magma expulsion and explosions of increasing intensity. It is the third-highest warning on the center's seven-step scale.

Emergency services should ready evacuation teams and shelters, limit access to the area around the volcano and alert air-traffic control systems, the center said in its statement.

Experts have noted increased activity in Popocateptl in 2012. It has spewed smoke and ash sporadically over the last few years and a major eruption in 2000 forced the evacuation of nearly 50,000 residents in three states surrounding the peak.

(Reporting by Elinor Comlay and Armando Tovar; Editor by David Brunnstrom)

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