MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has lowered the alert level for the Popocatepetl volcano near Mexico City four months after the simmering giant raised the alarm when it began spewing red-hot fragments of rock.
The National Center for Disaster Prevention said on Saturday it had cut the warning level to yellow phase two from yellow phase three after emergency services concluded there was now no imminent danger for people outside the 7.5-mile (12-km) radius of an exclusion zone around Popocatepetl's crater.
The center last raised the alert level on April 16. Thereafter, heightened activity by the 17,900-foot (5,450-meter) volcano prompted nearby schools to be shut on some days and the brief closure of the city of Puebla's airport.
Lying some 50 miles to the southeast of Mexico City, Popocatepetl has belched smoke and ash sporadically over the last few years. A big eruption in 2000 forced the evacuation of nearly 50,000 residents in three states surrounding the volcano.
Although the alert has been lowered, the volcano could still suddenly start churning up more smoke and rock again, and authorities need to stay watchful, the Interior Ministry said.
The new alert level for the volcano, often known as "Popo," is the fourth-highest warning on the center's seven-step scale.
(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Eric Beech)