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Mexico’s intensified volcano activity prompts school closures

Heightened activity from one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes, Popocatepetl, has led to the cancellation of in-person classes for over 100,000 students. This response by the authorities follows a series of small yet potent eruptions that have raised health concerns due to the spread of ash and gasses.

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Officials of Puebla state, where the volcano is located, have suspended both public and private school classes across 22 towns. Education in these areas will temporarily shift online to safeguard residents from the potential health risks posed by the falling ash.

Inhaling ash and gasses released by these eruptions can be detrimental to health, and, in extreme circumstances, may lead to large-scale evacuations.

Explosión del #Popocatépetl a las 5:26 h. Estallido escuchado en localidades cercanas al volcán (subir el volumen).

Ceniza (aún continúa la emisión) se dispersa hacia Puebla.

🚦amarillo 2
🚷radio seguridad 12 km

— SkyAlert (@SkyAlertMx) May 11, 2023

Popocatepetl, translating to “Smoking Hill” in the indigenous Nahuatl language, is one of the most closely watched volcanoes worldwide. It sits roughly 72 km southwest of Mexico City, a bustling metropolis of approximately 9 million inhabitants, or around 22 million including the broader metropolitan region.

Social media posts from the Puebla state capital, a historically significant city, depicted residents donning masks to protect against airborne ash.

Popocatépetl ( dare you to say that lol) our very own erupting volcano in Cholula, Puebla. That is ash blocking out the sun.

— Momster (@Julpesa) May 19, 2023

While schools in the state capital remained operational, officials advised residents to limit outdoor activities.

Mexico’s disaster prevention agency, Cenapred, retained a moderate risk, or yellow, alert level for the volcano on Thursday. In the preceding 24 hours, Cenapred recorded 154 exhalations predominantly of ash and gas, one minor explosion, and one volcano-tectonic earthquake from Popocatepetl.

Popocatepetl, Mexico’s second tallest volcano at 5,550 meters above sea level, adorns the southern skyline of the Mexican capital on clear days.

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