Mexican volcano settles down
The Popocatepetl volcano outside Mexico City settle d into a quiet slumber Wednesday after its biggest erup tion in more than a millennium, and volcano experts sai d the worst appeared to be over.
The volcano spews lava and ash in distant Xalizintl a. Soldiers manned roadblocks around the villages neare st to the volcano to ward off looters and to keep evacu ated residents from returning home too early.
The 17, 886-foot Popocatepetl sprayed a fountain of hot rock and ash on Monday and Tuesday in the biggest e ruption in 1, 200 years —a burst that convinced even th e most skeptical residents that it was time to flee.
On Wednesday, it once again looked like a harmless mountain, its crater a dusty ridge surrounded by cloud.
Top volcano experts told government officials that the eruption had relieved pressure inside the volcano, and that there was no longer a risk of a catastrophic e ruption, a spokesman for the interior secretariat said.
"There will no longer a big eruption, " spokesman F ernando Lopez said, "It's releasing pressure."
But Martha Sahagun, spokeswoman for President Vicen te Fox, said officials had made no such determination. "There is no declaration to that effect, " she said.
Officials in the area around the volcano said they would keep the shelters open for at elast another week or two to guarantee the area is safe.
For days, many of the 41, 000 people who live at th e base of Popocatepetl had ignored warnings to leave th e area—until the volcano showered incandescent (炽热的) ro cks and ash late Monday and early Tuesday from its glow ing crater.
By Tuesday afternoon, the only signs of life in mos t towns within six miles of the volcano were stray dogs staggering through empty streets, donkeys braying in un tended yards and groups of journalists and soldiers kee ping watch in the town's main plazas.
The volcano has emitted sporadic plumes of ash and vapor since it awoke from a nearly 70-year slumber in 1 994.
The peak is visible from Mexico City, a metropolis of 18 million people 40 miles to the northwest. But the activity—for now, at least, had little impact on the ci ty itself.
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