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Climber dies after the eruption at Popocatepetl volcano, Mexico

SAR popocatepetl june 23 2022

One person has been killed and another one was seriously injured as they were climbing the off-limits peak of Popocatepetl volcano when it erupted on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

According to official reports, a group of 4 climbers and their guide started their climb to the volcano on Wednesday afternoon.1

The group was originally accompanied by a local tour guide who left them at some point during their trek up the volcano as they edged closer to the peak of Popocatépetl, considered dangerous and off-limits to hikers and climbers.

The group had been climbing without the knowledge of local authorities but radioed in at some point Wednesday evening to inform the police that they were at the top of the volcano, which had begun to erupt. They reported that two members of their group had been injured and that they feared for their lives.

It is believed the group was showered with volcanic rocks and debris, which made two of them fall in a 50 m (150 feet) deep gully, some 300 m (1 000 feet) from the crater, at an altitude of about 5 km (3.1 miles) above sea level.

While the search and rescue mission was launched as soon as the group called in, rescue efforts were slow and complicated due to inclement weather and snow overnight Thursday.

When they reached the group they found one woman dead and another person in critical condition. The two remaining members of the group were not injured.

The video below shows the rescue team’s lamps as they were descending down the volcano.

In 24 hours to 16:00 UTC on June 23, the Popocatepetl volcano monitoring systems recorded 10 low-intensity exhalations, accompanied by water vapor, volcanic gases and light amounts of ash. 

Additionally, eight minutes of very low amplitude tremor and two volcano-tectonic earthquakes were recorded at 05:40 and 05:54 LT on June 23, with magnitudes of 1.5 and 1.6, respectively. 

Geological summary

Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km (44 miles) SE of Mexico City to form North America’s 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m (1 312 x 1 968 feet) wide crater.

The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano.

At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone.

Three major plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred from Popocatépetl since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since precolumbian time.2

References:

1 Climber killed while in restricted area on volcano El Popo – Mexico News DAily – June 24, 2022

2 Popocatepetl – Geological summary – GVP

Featured image credit: Ruido en la Red (stillshot)

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