Mexican volcano spews smoke, ash on homes

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano spewed out columns of smoke up to 5 km high and rained ash on nearby homes today, but disaster prevention officials ruled out a full-blown eruption.

Popocatepetl, whose snow-capped peak can be seen from the capital 64 km away on a clear day, belched out two enormous columns of billowing smoke and sprinkled ash on the village of Amecameca in the State of Mexico.

"The activity registered in the volcano during the past weeks is within forecast levels and we have not detected any precursors or signals that indicate a higher level of risk," said the disaster prevention centre Cenapred.

It said ash could land as far away as the neighbouring states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, but did not expect it to reach Mexico City, home to some 18 million people.

The 17,887-foot (5,452-metre) volcano's tongue-twister of a name (pronounced poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til) means "smoking mountain" in the indigenous Nahuatl tongue. It is often shortened to "Popo".

Popocatepetl reawoke in 1994 after decades of inactivity.

It has sparked to life several times since then, most notably in 2000 when it tossed red-hot rocks far above its crater in a series of explosions.

Tens of thousands of people living nearby were evacuated.

Mexican authorities kept an alert on Popocatepetl's activity and restricted access to a diameter of 12 km around the volcano.

It becomes more active during the cooler Mexican winter months as more ice expands and causes fissures in solidified lava at the volcano's crater, allowing for smoke, ash, or molten lava to spew out.

- REUTERS

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