In Mexico, one of the largest volcanoes in the world, Popocatepetl, has become active again. Pillars of lava, ash and gas have been erupting from the vent for over a week. Mexican authorities raised the threat level to pre-evacuation, as more than 25 million people live in the potentially dangerous area.
The main problem at the moment is ash, which ceaselessly covers the nearest areas with a thick layer. Because of this, authorities have advised Mexicans to be outdoors less often and to use protective masks. The Mexican Defense Ministry mobilized more than 7,000 troops to help local residents.
Ash can also irritate people’s respiratory tracts, eyes and skin. Experts fear it will cover even more densely populated areas, including the capital, as the winds change. Volcanologist Robin Campion said the emissions could linger for months.
Because of the activity of Popocatépetl, classes have been canceled in dozens of surrounding schools and about 3 million people are at risk of evacuation. However, scientists and Mexican authorities, who monitor the situation 24 hours a day, believe that a large volcanic eruption is unlikely. According to Robin Campion, a volcanologist at the Institute of Geophysics, “small activities reduce magma pressure.” Volcanologist Hugo Delgado Granados of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explained that Popocatepetl wakes up about every 70 years to release stored energy, but it does not result in serious consequences.
However, this is not the first time Popocatepetl has bothered Mexicans. Its activity began in 1994 and continues to this day. Episodes like the current one occurred in 1994, 2000, as well as in 2012, 2019 and 2020. The most dramatic was the peak in 2000: then the authorities had to evacuate 42,000 residents.
The ash from Popocatépetl caused the cancellation of more than 200 flights at airports in Mexico City and neighboring cities. The ash not only interferes with navigation systems, covers the landing strips and clogs the mechanisms of airliners, but is also hazardous to human health.
Mexican authorities urge the population to take precautions and not to panic. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that “the volcano seems to be calming down, although it is still emitting ash.