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Volcanic activity near Mexico City

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Hot rocks fly but experts don't say 'eruption'

April 29, 1997
Web posted at: 3:15 p.m. EDT (1915 GMT)

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Scientists were keeping a close eye on the Popocatepetl volcano in central Mexico Tuesday after red-hot rocks from small overnight eruptions ignited huge fires on grazing lands and frightened farmers on the mountainside.

The Popocatepetl volcano erupts near Mexico City.
movie icon (544K/15 sec. Small frame QuickTime movie)

But as activity died down with the daybreak authorities decided not to evacuate the area around the volcano, which lies only 40 miles east of Mexico City.

Authorities refused to call the activity eruptions, preferring to label them "puffs."

"It is a question of semantics but we do not believe in using the word explosion because it can be misinterpreted," said Roberto Qaas, in charge of monitoring Popocatepetl at the National Disaster Prevention Center.

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'Enormous bang'

"There was this enormous bang in the middle of the night, which woke us all," said Procopio Atenco, mayor of the town of San Nicolas, which lies in the shadow of the Popocatepetl volcano.

Three other blasts also rocked local villages in the early hours as blocked lava ducts in the volcano yielded to mounting pressure, throwing up red-hot rocks and ash over a radius of one mile, authorities said.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, although authorities maintained an alert for people living close to the crater at a height of the 17,883 feet.

At dawn, plumes of white smoke still poured from the crater, witnesses said.

Residents reported that clouds of ash had fallen in the night, covering houses and fields.

One fire raged over an area of 15 hectares (38 acres) on the side of the snowcapped, conical peak, one of the most active in Mexico, TV network Televisa said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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