- AeroMexico said the volcano’s outbursts affected more than 100 of its flights nationwide
- Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the teams are on standby
- It remains unclear until when the dangerous volcanic activity would continue
The two main airports in Mexico City continued to halt the majority of their flight operations through Monday in view of the ash and smoke spewing from the 17,887-foot volcano Popocatépetl, which is located 45 miles southeast of the country’s capital.
AeroMexico, the country’s national airline, said Monday that the volcano’s spring outbursts affected more than 100 of its flights nationwide, NBC News reported.
Volcanic ashes are hazardous for aviation, as they can reduce visibility and damage the wings and fuselage of an aircraft, according to the USGS.
The Benito Juarez International Airport removed volcanic ashes and verified wind conditions before resuming some operations on May 20. “After removing the volcanic ash, checking the runways and verifying favorable wind conditions, we resumed takeoff and landing operations starting at 10:00 a.m.,” the airport said on Twitter.”Check with your airline the status of your flight.”
The National Disaster Prevention Center of Mexico raised the alert level to Phase 3 Sunday, paving the way to ramp up evacuation preparations in the country. Laura Velázquez Alzúa, the head of the center, explained that the Phase 3 alert level indicates there is a possibility for the volcano to produce mild to moderate explosions, further hurling fragments of rock and ashes in surrounding areas.
“There is no risk to the population at this time,” she added.
“We need to be perfectly sure that our evacuation routes and signs are correct,” Velázquez Alzúa reportedly said during a press briefing.
The next step will be a red alert, which will prompt mandatory evacuations.
Meanwhile, the center urged residents living near the volcano to avoid going outdoors and wear face masks to cover their noses and mouth.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico also conducted a news conference Monday, noting that he has been in contact with federal and local officials regarding the volcano.
“We are standing by,” López Obrador said in Spanish, adding that authorities are continuously monitoring the volcano’s activity.
Millions of people in the city have been warned to prepare for a possible evacuation after the country’s most dangerous active volcano, also named “smoking mountain” in Nahuatl, saw unprecedented activity. It has been spewing ashes and smoke into several nearby towns since last week, authorities said, as per CNN.
Besides airport closures, state authorities suspended classes in schools across several municipalities in Puebla, Mexico and Tlaxcala. Around 25 million people currently live within a 60-mile radius of the volcano.
It remains unclear until when the dangerous volcanic activity would continue.
Officials in Puebla also suspended operations at Hermanos Serdán International Airport Monday after ashes spewed on the runways. Authorities in the municipality are ramping up efforts to provide shelter to thousands of people if evacuations will be required.
The U.S. embassy in Mexico also issued a warning on May 20, pointing out that Popocatépetl volcano “has exhibited increased activity since May 15, registering hundreds of tremors and smoke and ash exhalations.” The embassy further advised people against traveling within a 7.5-mile radius of the volcano.
The volcano had been inactive for decades until it saw some eruptions in 1994. Since then, it has been rumbling amid the everyday activities of residents. It experienced increased activity from 2000 to 2003 and from 2012 to 2016.