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Mexico volcano ash disrupts US flights again

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Ash spews from Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano, some 55 km from Mexico City, as seen from San Damian Texoloc in the Mexican central state of Tlaxcala, on July 9, 2013. A handful of US flights were canceled at two Mexican airports on Friday after ash from a nearby volcano fell in central Mexico, authorities said.AFP

A handful of US flights were canceled at two Mexican airports on Friday after ash from a nearby volcano fell in central Mexico, authorities said.

Alaska Airlines voluntarily canceled a flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City's international airport and the later trip back to California, airport spokesman Jorge Gomez told AFP. The rest of the airport, however, was operating normally.

The small airport of the central city of Puebla, located just 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Popocatepetl volcano, suspended its operations as a safety precaution "due to the abundant presence of ash," the transportation ministry said in a statement.

This forced the cancelation of six flights, including a United Airlines flights to Houston, Texas, an American Airlines trip to Dallas, Texas, and four domestic routes operated by Mexican carriers Volaris and Aeromexico, it said.

Two cargo flights were also affected, the ministry said, adding that clean up crews were deployed to pick up ash from the runway and roads.

The Popocatepetl volcano has been rumbling periodically since May, spewing huge columns of ash that prompted several US airlines to cancel dozens of flights into and out of Mexico City last week.

Last Saturday, authorities raised the alert level around the volcano to Yellow Phase III, one notch below evacuations of residents who live near the 5,452-meter-high (17,887-foot-high) "Popo," as it is locally known.

The Mexican capital is only 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the snow-capped volcano.

In its latest bulletin, the National Disaster Prevention Center reported that the volcano had spewed steam and ash accompanied by medium intensity explosions early Friday that blew glowing rocks up to two kilometers (1.2 miles) from its crater.