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Mexico City Ash Hazard Prompts Mask Handouts May 11, 2012
Popocatepetl eruption and children wearing maks to protect against ash.
Top: Popocatepetl sending ash high over Mexico's Puebla state. Bottom: Students placing masks on their faces to prevent inhaling ash particles from the eruption.
Residents in eastern parts of Mexico City have been provided with masks to protect them from airborne ash should the nearby Popocatepetl volcano violently erupt.

The Federal District’s Public Safety Secretariat took the unusual measure after the mountain, about 40 miles southeast of the city center, produced a series of blasts in recent weeks.

The masks and a public awareness campaign were focused on children and the elderly because they are the groups most likely to suffer from “lung diseases or chronic degenerative” illnesses if exposed to ash, the secretariat said.

Meanwhile, ash from Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano forced officials to close the airport in nearby Puebla for about 14 hours on Wednesday, to allow crews to clean up after the volcano spewed out masses of ash and rock.

Photos: Notimex