Millions of people have been warned to prepare for a possible evacuation after Mexico raised its alert level on the Popocatepetl volcano following earthquake swarms that could signal an imminent eruption.
On Sunday, the National Civil Protection Coordination (CNPC) raised the alert level to “yellow phase three” from “yellow phase two” on Popocatepetl, located in the states of Morelos, Puebla, and Mexico and is about 45 miles southwest of Mexico City.
CNPC warned of more volcanic activity and ash dispersion into several nearby towns. It also recommended that residents nearby avoid outside.
Milenio TV reported the state capital of Puebla was blanketed in ash for the first time in a decade. Its airport was shuttered over the weekend.
“We are in a phase of alert, not alarm,” Puebla’s governor Sergio Salomon tweeted in a video message on Monday. He said residents near the volcano should be prepared to evacuate.About 25 million people live within a 60-mile radius of the volcano.
“In the case of Mexico City, the risk is ash fall. We are prepared for that scenario and we know what to do. Let’s stay alert,” Mexico City’s mayor Claudia Sheinbaum tweeted.
The US Embassy has issued an advisory, warning people not to travel within a 7.5-mile radius of the volcano. It also noted, “Air travelers may continue to experience additional flight delays, cancellations, or temporary airport closures with little or no warning.”
Popocatepetl has been dormant for nearly three decades since it erupted in 1994. The earthquake swarms around the volcano could suggest magma flows are rising and an eruption is imminent.