Volcanic ash forces Mexican airport closure

Puebla: Volcanic ash rained down on the runway of the Puebla airport in central Mexico, forcing the facility to close today and disrupting some US and domestic flights.

The Popocatepetl volcano began rumbling and exploding yesterday, spewing a column of ash and ejecting white hot rock as far as 700 meters (yards) from its crater, according to the National Disaster Prevention Center.

"The communities remain calm and the Popocatepetl is permanently monitored," Jesus Morales, civil protection chief in Puebla state, told AFP. Some 120 passengers have been affected by the closure of the small Hermanos Serdan airport, which authorities hope to reopen later today.

The cancelled flights were heading to Houston, Texas, and the Mexican cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara. The Mexican capital is only 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the snow-capped volcano, which regularly exhales massive ash clouds. The Colima volcano in the west of the country has also been sending ash skywards in recent weeks.

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