The New York Times
December 19, 2000

Thousands Evacuated as Mexico's Popocatepetl Erupts

          By REUTERS

          MEXICO CITY, Dec 19 Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano spewed molten
          rock for two hours early on Tuesday in its second overnight eruption, as
          authorities sought to evacuate nearly 50,000 residents in three states
          surrounding the mountain.

          ``The volcano is stable but it still presents a high risk of another eruption,'' Interior
          Minister Santiago Creel told a newsconference on Tuesday after the latest
          flaming shower burst from the volcano 40 miles (64 km) from Mexico City's 18
          million residents.

          President Vicente Fox flew by helicopter to towns near the volcano and toured
          evacuee shelters as government officials met to coordinate their response to the
          emergency.

          The second eruption occurred at 2 a.m. local time, (0800 GMT) and followed
          Monday night's outburst of flaming rocks that leaped above the 17,884-foot
          (5,451-metre) volcano.

          Slabs of molten rock, some with a diameter as big as 1.5 feet (45 cm),
          were shot some 650 feet (200 metres) into the sky above the volcano's
          crater, authorities said.

          One man, 65, reportedly died from a heart attack during the first molten
          shower on Monday, which lasted more than an hour.

          Creel said no other injuries had occurred as authorities evacuated some
          26,000 people in the states of Puebla, Morelos and Mexico to 180
          refugee centers.

          Officials were working to evacuate a total of 48,000 within a 7.4-mile
          (12-km) radius around the volcano, he said.

          President Vicente Fox, who took office on Dec. 1, said in an emergency
          announcement late on Monday in which he called for calm, ``We are
          continuing on maximum alert.''

          Fox said his interior and defense ministers were working together on
          contingency plans should the volcano's activity increase.

          ``SMOKING MOUNTAIN''

          Many residents living around Popocatepetl, or ``smoking mountain'' in
          the indigenous Nahuatl language, had refused to leave their homes as
          evacuation efforts got under way over the weekend.volcano looked like
          ghost towns, with the roads into them manned by Army patrols. The
          airport in Puebla city was closed.

          ``I think that the people will have a reason now to leave their homes and
          villages,'' Puebla state Gov. Melquiades Morales said in an interview on
          local radio Monday night. He did not discount the possibility of a forced
          evacuation if necessary.

          Experts had determined that a dome of lava had formed in the crater of
          the volcano that could cause a buildup of pressure and lead to stronger
          emissions than in recent days.

          ``The force of the gas rising is causing these violent explosions through
          the dome of lava,'' said Roberto Quaas, director of Mexico's National
          Center for Prevention of Disasters (Cenapred).

          The volcano ``Popo,'' as it is known locally, was inactive from 1927 to
          1994, when there was a moderate eruption. Since then it has been
          increasingly active, sending up smoke and ash columns. In November
          1998 the volcano spewed fragments of lava rock.