December 22, 2000

Mexico's volcano is quiet, but scientists warn of more to come

                  MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano was
                  mostly quiet on Friday, although scientists warned that the lack of
                  activity could just be the volcano preparing for another major eruption.

                  The mountain began spewing a fiery mixture of rock and ash late Monday in
                  its strongest eruption in 1,200 years. It has since settled into quiet sleep, sending
                  up two large plumes of ash Thursday night, followed by a series of tremors early Friday.

                  Scientists have warned that energy is still building inside the 17,886-foot
                  mountain in a possible precursor to more activity.

                  Saying another strong eruption is likely in the next day, they have urged the 40,000 people who live
                  within eight miles of the mountain to stay away.

                  Although the volcano has returned to the occasional puffs of smoke it has been sending up
                  for the past six years, residents were still fearful after this week's spectacular display of red-hot
                  rock and ash. Most were staying put in shelters, and planned to remain through Christmas.

                  Before Monday's eruption, many residents had ignored pleas to evacuate, fearing looters would
                  steal their belongings.

                  Soldiers sent in to guard houses during the last evacuation in December 1994
                  often ended up robbing them. The last evacuation also seemed frivolous to many
                  because the volcano, which had just become active again after a nearly 70-year
                  slumber, produced little activity.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.