BENITO JUAREZ, Mexico, Reuters
Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano, whose eruptions earlier this week forced the evacuation of some 40,000 people, is probably using two days of calm to build up to a fresh round of blasts, officials said on Thursday.
“We’re in a phase where the volcano is rebuilding energy and that it will certainly release either Friday or Saturday,” Roberto Quaas, director of Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center (Cenapred), told the Televisa network.
The snow-capped 17,884-foot (5,452-metre) mountain, located some 40 miles (60 km) from Mexico City with its 18 million residents, spat showers of molten rock and flames on Monday and Tuesday in its most violent activity in decades — perhaps in as long as five centuries.
But on Thursday, like Wednesday, Popocatepetl (pronounced poh-poh-kah-TEH peh-til) appeared calm, only releasing the occasional plume of smoke and ash.
Officials, however, advised evacuees to remain in camps serviced by disaster relief officials and the Mexican army. “The party’s not yet over,” Quaas said, referring to the volcano’s activity, which has captivated the nation. He said that the volcano had built up a dome inside its crater containing some 19 million cubic meters (670 million cubic feet) of lava, of which only about 1 percent had been expelled in this week’s eruptions.
But despite official warnings, an estimated 7,000 people remained in towns and villages within the 8-mile (13-km) danger zone around the volcano. In San Pedro Benito Juarez, a town of 6,000 some 7 miles (11 km) from the volcano’s crater, about 400 residents remained in their homes on Thursday.
“It’s looking ugly, but where are we supposed to go?” said Petra Martinez, 65, an indigenous woman and a grandmother of 30. “I have two horses, a mule, several turkeys and a mare, and if they don’t die of hunger, then somebody will surely steal them. The thieves are already about. We know them and we know our people.”