Following the blast, smaller explosions are liable to follow, as well as ash rain and mudflows in nearby communities. In a statement, CENAPRED asked the public “not to approach the volcano and especially the crater, because of the danger involved in the fall of ballistic fragments.” In addition to the agency’s warning, the Mexican government has issued a “yellow phase two” volcano alert and set up a 7.5-mile exclusion zone around the summit to make sure people stay at a safe distance.
Prior to the 1990s, the 17,797-foot volcano — whose name literally means “smoking mountain” — had been dormant for over 50 years. Since then it has been the site of sporadic activity, including several significant eruptions each year. Twenty-three million people live within 60 miles of the volcano’s crater — Mexico City is just 43 miles away — all of whom will be on high alert over the next few days.