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Friday, April 20, 2012 - Page updated at 06:00 a.m.

Mexican volcano hurls hot rock half-mile into sky

The Associated Press

Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano hurled super-heated rock fragments half a mile (a kilometer) into the air early Thursday and officials warn more and bigger outbursts are likely.

The volcano southeast of Mexico City continued to send towering plumes of ash and water vapor into the air during the day as the ground around it shuddered, according to the National Disaster Prevention Center. The gritty, abrasive volcanic ash can ruin car engines, block drains and damage crops.

The center said the ash and vapor rose about 2,600 feet (800 meters) above the crater at midday and it was being blown to the east-northeast, away from the Mexican capital.

Authorities this week raised the alert level due to increasing activity at the 17,886-foot (5,450-meter) peak. Its most violent eruption in 1,200 years occurred on Dec. 18, 2000.

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