Around three million people have been ordered to evacuate as huge swathes of Mexico were blanketed in dust by the Popocatépetl volcano, which has also delayed flights and caused schools to close.
According to the Daily Mail, The country’s National Civil Protection Coordination increased its threat level to ‘yellow phase 3’ which ordered the evacuations and warned people nearby to prepare for the possibility of leaving the area.
The next step, a red alert, triggers mandatory evacuations, and dozens of shelters have already been opened in areas surrounding the crater as a precaution.
Approximately 25 million people live within 60 miles of the Popocatépetl volcano, just 45 miles southeast of Mexico City. For more than a week, the 17,797-foot mountain – known affectionately as ‘El Popo’ –
has been increasingly explosive, spewing great plumes of gas, ash, and incandescent rock into the air. The activity led the Mexican government to raise the warning level and close schools in dozens of municipalities across three states.
‘You hear it more at night,’ said Violeta Fuentes, 39, who lives with her husband and two children, ages 9 and 12, on the outskirts of Santiago Xalitzintla. That’s also when they can see the glow from the crater. ‘Last night, several times it would go out one moment and then light up again.’
According to MSN, Fuentes said she was a bit unnerved by it ‘because you can see (the volcano) doesn’t want to be okay anymore.’ The family worried about the impact the falling ash would have on their crops. Her father-in-law’s corn across the street was already coated in it.
The alerts and preparations, however, are old hat for residents in the region. Job Amalco, a driver, said it was normal. ‘It doesn’t scare us. We’re spectators of what nature gives us,’ he said proudly. But anxiety was beginning to build among others.
‘It’s worrisome, above all because of the children, because you don’t know if there will be an enormous explosion or a small one,’ said Claudia de la Cruz, 27, who has two children, ages 3 and 5.
Her husband hikes up the volcano’s flanks each day to collect firewood to make charcoal. ‘He says that there it sounds like the peaks are crashing down and it shakes, but he´s brave for us,’ she said.
De la Cruz remembers as a girl the first time she saw the mountain glow and how back then residents had very little information. She trusts that now with a cellphone they will know in real time what is happening.
Still, the real warning residents listen for – as it has been her whole life – will be the urgent tolling of the town´s church bells. Monday they rang out as part of the drill. There were no signs of panic Monday, but people worried about the possibility of having to evacuate, leaving homes and animals unattended.