The Popocatepetl volcano just east of Mexico City has spit out a cloud of ash and vapour 3 kilometres high over several days of eruptions, and Mexico City residents awoke on Saturday to find a fine layer of volcanic dust on their cars.
It has been years since the centre of the nation’s capital has seen a noticeable ash fall because prevailing winds usually blow the volcanic dust in other directions. Ash fell earlier this week in some neighbourhoods on Mexico City’s south and east sides.
In San Pedro Nexapa, located about 15 kms from the volcano, residents swept up small piles of ash from a few meters of sidewalk. Some residents wore surgical masks to ward off the dust raised by passing vehicles.
“The ash affects us a lot, because we get our water from the snow melt from Popocatepetl, and right now we can’t use the water for bathing, for cooking, we can’t even give it to our animals,” said Agustina Perez Gutierrez, a housewife in San Pedro Nexapa. “The children get sore throats from the ash, and it affects the few vegetables and corn crops we are able to plant.”
U.S. airlines cancelled at least one flight at Mexico City’s airport on Friday as a precautionary measure, though airport authorities said the terminal was fully able to operate. Alaska Airlines had cancelled its route to Los Angeles, the airport press office said in its Twitter account.
On Friday, four airlines cancelled a total of 17 flights “due to climate conditions and in accordance with their own internal policies,” the airport said in a statement.
The volcano is about 65 kilometers from the airport, which is in turn a few miles east of the city’s centre.
The Environment Ministry has urged residents to take preventive measures to deal with the ash, including wearing dust masks, covering water supplies and staying indoors as needed.