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Mexico volcano spews gas, ash; authorities raise alert

April 17, 2012 |  2:01 pm

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano has ramped up activity in recent days, spewing ash and gas and prompting authorities to raise the alert level for neighboring communities in the states of Mexico, Morelos, Tlaxcala and Puebla.

The federal government said "Popo," as the volcano is commonly known, has been spewing red-hot rocks and also seen its lava dome expand in recent days. Ash has fallen on some communities and glowing light has been photographed atop the 17,887-foot peak at night (link in Spanish).

The volcano has "exhaled" at least 14 times since Friday, said a recorded message at the National Disaster Prevention Center. Popo, located about 50 miles southeast of Mexico City, has been increasingly active in recent months, the center said. Late Monday, the official alert level for the volcano was raised a notch, but remained short of a grade that would require evacuations.  

Separately, Mexico has been rattled in recent weeks by a series of strong earthquakes, including a 7.4 temblor on March 20 that briefly prompted a false rumor of a rising volcano near the quake's epicenter in the state of Guerrero.


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Photo: Ash and smoke rise from Popocatepetl volcano, as seen from the town of Xalitzintla in the central state of Puebla on Tuesday. Residents of nearby communities reported hearing roaring noises after signs of increased activity at the volcano prompted authorities to raise alert levels. Credit: Pablo Spencer / AFP/Getty Images