Mexican volcano spews hot rock

A plume of ash and steam rise from the Popocatepetl volcano in Mexico, and bigger outbursts are expected.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano hurled super-heated rock fragments half a mile into the air early Thursday, and officials warned that 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 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 because of increasing activity at the 17,886-foot peak. Its most violent eruption in 1,200 years occurred on Dec. 18, 2000.