Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano spewed ash and steam on Saturday in a giant plume stretching some 3,000 meters (two miles) high, authorities said.

The eruption southeast of Mexico City was "a major explosive event, totally different to those since the year 2000" and related to a rupture of lava inside the volcano's crater, said Ramon Pena, the director of the local government's Plan Operativo Popocatepetl.


The volcanic activity started at 6:20 am (1220 GMT) and officials issued a yellow alert, signaling no immediate risk to the local population.

Ash began falling on Puebla, the closest city to the volcano, a couple of hours after the eruption.

During the past 13 years, the volcano has become more active during the month of December. Last week, a two-kilometer (1.5 mile) trail of smoke rose from the volcano but no ash fell.

In 1994, Mexican army troops restricted access to the volcano for a radius of 12 kilometers (seven miles) after a major eruption. The Popocatepetl volcano is the second highest in Mexico at 5,452 meters (17,887 feet) above sea level.