Popocatepetl volcano has been blanketing towns with ash and disrupting flights at Mexico City's airport this week. Authorities are preparing for the possible evacuation of millions of people as thousands of troops were deployed to the region, according to NPR News.
On Tuesday, Mexico raised the alert level of Popocatepetl to "yellow phase three" from "yellow phase two," one notch below the top "red" level. About 25 million people are living within 60 miles of the 17,797-foot volcano.
The country's Defense Department said nearly 7,000 troops had been deployed to the region, located 45 miles southwest of Mexico City.
VIDEO: Local authorities deliver emergency kits to protect people from the ash spewing from Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano pic.twitter.com/UhyT92sY5K— AFP News Agency (@AFP) May 25, 2023
Troops are being positioned in case an evacuation is needed.
popocatépetl volcano starting to blow its top in mexico— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 24, 2023
~7000 troops deployed to the region in case mass evacuation is needed
> 25 million live within 60 miles of the peak pic.twitter.com/NkErSUPPnZ
"There is no risk to the population at this time," National Civil Defense Coordinator Laura Velazquez said earlier this week.
Velazquez noted, "We don't know what's going to happen. We are prepared for any scenario."
Many are wondering if the next big eruption is imminent.
On 2023-05-24 #TROPOMI has detected a strong SO2 signal of 18.31DU at a distance of 57.6km to #Popocatepetl at an altitude of ~1km. Estimated mass within 300km: 5.5ktons.. @tropomi #S5p #Sentinel5p @DLR_en @BIRA_IASB @ESA_EO #SO2LH pic.twitter.com/R4IRODyLb0— TROPOMI SO2 (@DlrSo2) May 24, 2023
Servando de la Cruz Reyna, a senior geophysics researcher at the UNAM in Mexico, told AP News there are no signs that the current waves of rumblings, and minor eruptions could point to higher volcanic activity. He said:
"The probability that this continues as it has previously is far higher than the probability that this grows to much higher levels."
However, Popocatepetl is a stratovolcano capable of a massive eruption. That is why Mexican authorities are preparing for any scenario by staging thousands of troops in the area because millions might need to be evacuated if a mega eruption is seen.