Mexican Volcano: Ash and Rock Half-Mile Into the Sky

México's Popocatépetl volcano has spewed super-heated rock fragments into the sky and officials worry that this is a sign of more serious eruptions to come.

The volcano southeast of México City has sent giant plumes of ash and water vapor into the air, which may trigger fallouts of gritty, abrasive volcanic ash that can ruin car engines and block drains.

The National Disaster Prevention Center said in a report Thursday that ash may fall on the eastern flank of the peak, away from the Mexican capital. About 200 people live at the base of the mountain.

The volcano has dusted towns on its flanks with spouted ash or vapor about 15 times over the last 24 hours.

But unlike recent days, the ash has not spread to neighboring cities.

"At this point there is nothing to worry about as long as there's nothing worse that any of its previous burps" said Eric Rojo, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is helping the close by town of Puebla with its upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Civil defense radio dispatcher Dulce Maria Casquera says the volcano alert level remains high, but no evacuations are planned at present.

Authorities this week raised the alert level due to increasing activity at the 17,886-foot peak. Its most violent eruption in 1,200 years occurred on Dec. 18, 2000.

However, the National Disaster Prevention Center said in a report Wednesday that some glowing rock fragments rolled about a quarter mile down the slopes.

It's now at the fifth step on a seven-level warning scale.

The National Disaster Prevention Center says a lava dome is growing in the volcano's crater.

"As long as it's smoking and the lava is not accumulating than there is nothing to worry about," Rojo told Fox News Latino.

The center said in a statement late Monday the volcano could experience "significant explosions of growing intensity that hurl incandescent rocks significant distances," large ash showers and possible flows of mud and molten rocks down the volcano's flanks.

Last August, the volcano spewed out ash from its crater.

México's national disaster prevention agency said the volcano shot out ash for more than a half mile into the sky four times and there was a possibility that the ash could have fallen onto México City.

The name Popocatépetl comes from the Nahuatl words for "it smokes" and "mountain."

"I was in Puebla early Monday morning and the view of the smoking mountain was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen," Rojo said.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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