January 23, 2002

Mexican volcano spews smoke, ash

                 MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Dense columns of smoke, ash and vapor
                 spewed forth from the crater of the Popocatepetl volcano outside Mexico City
                 early Wednesday, but officials said there was no immediate threat to nearby

                 The activity began about 5 a.m. (1100 GMT), producing a long billowing white tail
                 of smoke over the crater, but showing no signs of any major eruptive activity, said
                 Roberto Quass, director of the National Disaster Prevention Agency.

                 Quass said the latest rumblings were likely due to the formation of a new lava dome
                 within the crater of the 17,886-foot (5,366-meter) volcano, which has been
                 shooting out ash and rock intermittently since December 1994.

                 But he said the activity had diminished during the morning and that there were no
                 plans to evacuate nearby residents or augment precautionary measures, which
                 currently prohibit people from going within 12 kilometers (7 miles) of the crater.

                 The volcano, located about 40 miles (65 kms) south of Mexico City, has been
                 closely monitored since December 18, 2000, when it staged its most violent
                 eruption in 1,200 years, spewing red-hot rock and convincing thousands who live
                 at its base to flee to shelters set up in safe areas.

                 Popocatepetl is visible from Mexico City, the largest metropolis in the Americas.

                 Yet a full-blown eruption would likely only dust the metropolitan area's 20 million
                 residents with ash.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.