Authorities in Mexico prepare to evacuate residents near Popocatepetl volcano after alert level raised


Popocatepetl volcano spews ash and smoke into the air on Wednesday.



Schools have canceled classes and emergency teams are getting ready to evacuate residents as a volcano in central Mexico continues to spew ash and steam into the air, Reuters reported.

The National Disaster Prevention Centre on Tuesday warned the Popocatepetl volcano, located 50 miles southeast of Mexico City, could experience "significant explosions of growing intensity that hurl incandescent rocks significant distances", the Associated Press reported.

Large ash showers and possible flows of mud and molten rocks down the volcano's flanks were also possible, the AP said.

On Monday authorities raised the alert level for the 17,900-foot volcano to five on a seven-stage warning scale.

Photos published by MSNBC today show thick plumes of ash and smoke rising out of the volcano and schoolchildren donning face masks provided by the Red Cross as the air quality in towns surrounding the volcano deteriorates. 

Carlos Gutierrez, head of operations at the National Disaster Prevention Centre, told Reuters that the current alert could remains for several weeks or months until the activity decreases.

Video footage purportedly of the volcano -- known by locals as El Popo -- on Monday shows a thick plume of smoke stretching across the horizon.

Popocatepetl has been erupting intermittently since 1994. A huge eruption in Dec. 2000 forced the evacuation of more than 50,000 people, according to the Washington Post.

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