`El Popo' tips ashtray into Mexico City smog

The Aztecs named it Popocatepetl - the Smoking Mountain. When it blew its top on Monday night, its worst eruption since 1925, it spewed smoke, ash, red-hot grit and mud - not lava - but gave a fright to the 20 million residents of Mexico City and the surrounding valley.

The eruption sent a mushroom cloud of smoke six miles above the crater and covered the capital, 33 miles away, with soggy ash during an evening rain storm. The capital's international airport closed down overnight, with passengers getting an unexpected detour to the resort of Acapulco, as the muddy ash smeared airliners' windscreens and endangered aircraft engines. On the ground, low visibility caused at lest one highway pile- up. Mexico City residents were advised to stay indoors or wear goggles and cover their noses if they went out. Many called emergency services for explanations of the strange cloud of wet ash that had replaced the city's renowned daytime smog.

It was as though someone had emptied a giant ashtray over the city and vulcanologists said the rain had helped prevent a disaster. The state of Puebla, one of three states which the 17,890ft Popocatepetl straddles, declared a "red alert" emergency, preparing to evacuate tens of thousands of residents. Most refused, saying they feared looting of their homes, which happened during the last evacuation in 1994.

Hundreds of people clogged roads out of one town, Amecameca, but most stayed home or flocked to churches to pray. In the village of Santiago Xalizintla, many residents moved to higher ground after a volcanic mudslide, cooled by the rain, threatened lower-lying homes. Against the sound of the village church bells, a loudspeaker broadcast a priest's voice, urging residents to come in and pray that there not be the kind of full-scale eruption which could bury the village.

In Mexico City, some non-government experts criticised the authorities for playing down the danger and warned that neither the national nor state governments were prepared for a potential disaster.

Some 300,000 peple, mostly farmers, live directly under the volcano - widely known as "el Popo" for short. It formed the backdrop to Malcolm Lowry's novel Under the Volcano.

The eruption began at 6pm - evening rush hour in Mexico City - on Monday and lasted half an hour. The soggy ash caused havoc on the capital's roads, bringing visibility down to 100 yards and forcing motorists to stop constantly to wipe their windscreens.

By yesterday the situation was returning to normal. Mexico City residents went back to work. Teachers came to work early to clear ash from school playgrounds. Hospitals were busy with people who had suffered burning eyes or sore throats.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living