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Mexico's 'El Popo' Volcano Still Not Posing Danger

One of the volcanoes that towers over Mexico City is spewing out smoke and ash, but there appears to be no threat to populated areas yet.

The view of Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano in the early morning hours was spectacular and a little frightening for many of the area's 20 million inhabitants. A column of dark smoke rose two kilometers above the crater. Experts monitoring the mountain known generally here as "El Popo" say the emissions are part of the process of forming a new lava dome within the crater. They say it is not likely that the volcano will throw ash five-kilometers out from the crater as it did two years ago.

Still, authorities are taking steps to protect people in the vicinity of el Popo, just in case. Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador started coordinating civil defense efforts immediately after the first exhalation of smoke and ash at about five in the morning, Mexico time.

He says he and his team have been preparing for whatever emergency may result from the volcano's renewed activity.

Experts say there is no sign of a major eruption developing and that, even if the activity were to increase, the crater is far enough away that it would have little impact on the metropolitan zone. However, people living in small villages and towns near the base of the mountain could be at risk. Authorities have established several shelters in the area and are prepared to offer food, blankets and beds to more than eight thousand people if some villages need to be evacuated.

The column of smoke rising from "El Popo" is drifting to the northeast and experts say light ash is likely to fall on communities in the state of Tlaxcala, some 70 kilometers east of Mexico City. People in that state and the nearby state of Puebla are enjoying clear views of the volcano and its activity. As for residents of Mexico City, not even the show remains, since the city's notorious air pollution quickly rose by mid-morning to cover the view completely.