Mexico’s giant Popocatepetl volcano may generate lava flows, explosions of “growing intensity” and ash that could reach miles away, the National Center for Disaster Prevention said Monday. Officials were preparing evacuation routes and shelters for thousands of people who live in the shadow of Popocatepetl, located 40 miles southeast of Mexico City. Officials have created a 7.5-mile restricted zone around the cone of the volcano.
Popo, as the volcano is known, has displayed a “notable increase in activity levels” in the last few days, including tremors and explosive eruptions, according to a statement from the federal government. The 17,887-foot volcano has been disgorging large towers of steam and ash since mid-April, but officials have become more concerned in recent days as activity has intensified. Webcams have shown large chunks of molten rock spewing from the crater, and ash has rained down on the nearby city of Puebla. On Sunday, the National Center for Disaster Prevention elevated its warning level to Yellow Phase 3, the fifth stage of a seven-stage warning scale.