MEXICO CITY - More than 14,000 people who live near an erupting volcano were ordered to evacuate Friday night as the fiery crater spat out gas, vapor and ash for a fourth straight day.
Smoke billowed from the crater of the Popocatepetl Volcano, which sits 40 miles southeast of Mexico City. Officials feared it could begin spewing lava: Although the number of eruptions decreased Friday, the National Center for Disaster Prevention said earthquake detectors recorded more tremors within the volcano, which generally indicates movement of magna.
Officials sent buses to take people from seven communities along Popocatepetl's slopes to government shelters set up a safe distance away.
The evacuated communities cover the states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla. More than 30,000 people live in the vicinity, but officials ordered the evacuation of only those communities within 20 miles of the volcano. They called the evacuation a preventative measure.
Some international airlines canceled flights into the Mexico City airport for a second straight day as ash fell over the area. But most continued flying into the airport.
On Thursday, the volcano threw ash over a 50-mile radius and spat incandescent fragments that rolled down its slopes. On Tuesday, it erupted 200 times, a record number for a single day. Residents in villages surrounding the volcano have been walking the streets with medical masks over their mouths to avoid inhaling the ash.
The 17,886-foot volcano has been shooting out vapor, ash and rock intermittently since December 1994 after lying largely dormant since 1927.