Friday, July 12, 2013

Mexico volcano ash shuts down airport, disrupts US flights

Several 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, decided to suspend its operations due to the volcanic activity.
This forced the cancelation of United Airlines flights to and from Houston, Texas, and an Aeromexico flight to the northern Mexican city of Monterrey as a precaution, Puebla civil protection director Jesus Morales told AFP.

"Although it wasn't a large quantity of ash that fell, the airport decided to follow its safety protocol," Morales said, adding that the small terminal is expected to resume operations later in the day.

Four other flights scheduled to leave Puebla on Friday were being delayed for now, including an American Airlines trip to Dallas, Texas, and three domestic routes operated by Mexican carrier Volaris.

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.

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