The iconic Popocatepetl volcano, located 45 miles southeast of Mexico City, is a source of worry and unease for the communities residing near its foothills. Rising some 17,797 feet above sea level, this mountain of fire affectionately referred to as “El Popo,” has been emitting gas and ash plumes for days, coating the townships and crops of Puebla in a super-fine dust. While to the east of the mountain, many are taking every precaution, those to the west feel slightly more at ease.
Viridiana Alba, who has been in the business of selling flowers in Amecameca’s central plaza for 25 years, reported feeling cautious when “nothing is happening.” She can only assume the ash has done well to help her plants. The clouds have been blowing east over Puebla and Veracruz states until it eventually reaches the Bay of Campeche to the south. Mexico’s National Center for Prevention of Disasters wrote in its Tuesday report that small domes of lava are forming and then immediately being destroyed by small and moderate explosions inside the crater.
Arturo Benítez, a former local official, remembered how his house shook almost all night three days ago and how much ash fell. Officials have yet to order an evacuation, but they have been driving along the evacuation routes, preparing shelters, and performing simulations drills. On Cortes Pass, a small mountain highway between El Popo and the dormant Iztaccihuatl volcano, troops and civil defense vehicles have closed the road.
75-year-old Cástula Sánchez, who typically sells food to tourists on the weekends, is confident the volcano will settle and the tourists will eventually come back. The police officers have been handing out pamphlets containing tips on being prepared just in case. They remind residents to keep important documents at hand and always have a full gas tank. Most living nearby already know these warnings, particularly those who remember the 1997 eruption.
The red alert on the stoplight-style system was only triggered once since this powerful peak emerged from dormancy in 1994, back in 2000. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador downplayed the situation Tuesday, reportening that “We are going to be watching and if there’s anything we’re going to inform, but we feel like there isn’t going to be a problem.”
As one of the most active volcanos in the region, the communities around El Popocatepetl are taking all the necessary precautions and being prepared. Mexico’s National Center for Prevention of Disasters promised that they would be observing the mountain more intensely in the upcoming weeks.