Popocatepetl Volcano Near Mexico City Spews Huge Ash Clouds [PHOTOS]

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The Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City has spewed huge plumes of ash and fiery rocks Saturday night, terrifying local villagers and forcing a local airport to close down.  

The volcano, which is located around 80 kilometer southeast of Mexico City, erupted early Saturday and spewed out four huge ash clouds, the National Center for Disaster Prevention said in a statement Saturday.

Out of the four explosions, the biggest one shot an ash cloud 4 kilometer high into the air, according to the statement.

A scientist working with the government's disaster center, Raul Arambula, told Reuters that the volcano threw out the ash and fragments of red-hot rock after officials raised the alert level last month.

It was spectacular, Arambula said. Of course, it makes you worry about everyone living nearby.

The huge plumes of air also forced the airport in the central state of Puebla to suspend operations Saturday. Earlier this week, billowing ash closed the local airport.

Mexico City's civil protection officials told Reuters that a change in wind patterns could send ash over the capital next week.        

Popocatepetl is an active volcano situated on the border of three states -  Puebla, Mexico and Morelos, in Central Mexico. Popocatepetl (17,802 ft) is the second highest peak in Mexico which lies in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt.

The disaster center in Mexico increased the volcano's alert level from yellow phase two to yellow phase three in mid-April, which is the third-highest warning on the center's seven-step scale. However, as of now, there are no plans of evacuating nearby residents.

They told us that we need to be ready because if we have to evacuate, they are going to warn us with the church bells, Lizbeth Agustin, a 22-year-old candy vendor, told Reuters.

The last major eruption occurred in December 2000 which forced the evacuation of nearly 50,000 residents. 

Mexico volcano

The Popocatepetl volcano spews a cloud of ash and steam high into the air, as seen from the town of Santiago Xalizintla, on the outskirts of Puebla May 2, 2012. Reuters

Mexico volcano

Residents walk as the Popocatepetl volcano spews a cloud of ash and steam high into the air, near the town of Santiago Xalizintla, on the outskirts of Puebla May 2, 2012. Reuters

Mexico volcano

An aerial view of the Popocatepetl volcano spewing a cloud of ash and steam in Santiago Xalizintla, on the outskirts of Puebla, is seen in this handout photo taken April 24, 2012. The 5,450-metre (17,900 ft) Popocatepetl volcano has been kept on yellow alert level, according to local media and authorities. Picture taken April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Center (CENAPRED)/Handout Reuters/Handout

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Mexico volcano

The Popocatepetl volcano spews a cloud of ash and steam high into the air in Puebla May 11, 2012. Reuters

Mexico volcano

The Popocatepetl volcano spews a cloud of ash and steam high into the air as a helicopter flies in the area in Puebla May 11, 2012. Mexico last month raised the alert level for the volcano Popocatepetl, 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Mexico City, after it began pumping out red-hot fragments of rock and ash. The country has been closely monitoring the 17,900-foot (5,450-metre) volcano, which has prompted school classes in nearby villages to be suspended on days of higher activity. Reuters

Mexico volcano

A dog sleeps on a floor covered with ash in Santiago Xalitzintla, 6 miles from the volcano Popocatepetl, May 12, 2012. Reuters

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