Ashes from the Popocatépetl volcano suspend flights in Mexico City for almost 6 hours
Published by EFE/Hilda Ríos on May 20, 2023
The International Airports of Mexico City (AICM) and Felipe Ángeles (AIFA) experienced nearly six hours of suspended operations on Saturday as a result of ash from the Popocatépetl volcano. The airports had to undertake extensive cleaning on the runways to ensure safe conditions for takeoffs and landings.
The AICM initially announced the temporary closure on its official Twitter account, stating that it began at 4:25 a.m. local time (10:25 a.m. GMT). The closure was extended by two additional hours at the “Benito Juárez” airport in the Mexican capital due to the need for thorough reviews and cleaning of runways and taxiways.
However, the closure exceeded the scheduled timeframe, and operations were not resumed until 10:30 local time (16:30 GMT), marking a six-hour interruption. The air terminal reported that takeoff and landing operations could resume after volcanic ash removal, runway checks, and verification of favorable wind conditions.
Major airlines such as Aeroméxico reported that their operations were completely suspended. Other carriers like Viva Aerobus and Volaris advised passengers to take precautions and monitor flight status through their respective portals.
The Popocatépetl volcano, located between Estado de Mexico, Morelos, and Puebla, has exhibited continuous activity in recent weeks. This morning, it experienced a series of explosions, accompanied by the expulsion of incandescent material, resulting in a rain of ash.
On Friday alone, the National Center for Disaster Prevention (Cenapred) recorded over 168 exhalations consisting of water vapor, volcanic gases, and ash.
The AIFA, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s flagship airport project, was also affected. The airport’s official account stated that operations were suspended from 05:58 local time (11:58 GMT), and measures were taken to clean the runways before resuming operations.
Claudia Sheinbaum, the head of the Government of Mexico City, warned residents about ashfall in various municipalities, particularly in the north and east of the capital. She highlighted the “light ashfall” recorded by Cenapred in the town halls of Venustiano Carranza, Gustavo A. Madero, Azcapotzalco, Tlalpan, and Iztapalapa, and the indefinite closure of the AICM.
Sheinbaum emphasized the importance of following recommendations, such as covering water tanks and drains, closing doors and windows, avoiding outdoor activities, and covering the nose and mouth when outside. She urged people to stay informed through official sources and refrain from spreading rumors.
Governor Sergio Salomón of Puebla assured that communication and coordination among authorities at different government levels and neighboring areas are being maintained. He mentioned that the region remains at the yellow traffic light phase 2, with no indications of a phase change.
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