** Originally published at World Now:
Glowing red rocks were thrown from the top of the active Popocatepetl volcano at dawn Friday, producing more spectacular (and slightly frightening) images from the peak southeast of populous Mexico City. But authorities did not raise the alert level for a potential major eruption.
"Popo" or "Don Goyo," as the volcano is affectionately known, has been shooting plumes of ash, gas and rocks for a week. Residents of the semirural communities near the volcano have reported hearing hours of "low-pitched roaring" emanating from the 17,887-foot Popocatepetl.
President Felipe Calderon said Friday during a meeting with governors of the peak's neighboring states that the government is prepared, in case evacuations become necessary. Authorities said contingency plans are ready if the volcanic activity threatens residents in the states of Mexico, Puebla and Morelos.
"The volcano is in command," said Roberto Quaas, director of Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Center.
The government has not raised its alert level on the volcano since Monday. Yet a week of sustained exhalations has produced worry among some Mexicans who live near "Popo," which is visible from some points of Mexico City on days with relatively low pollution.
An estimated 5 million people would be directly affected by a large-scale eruption, and some 19 million other people live near the volcano.
Popocatepetl, which means "smoking mountain" in the Aztec's language Nahuatl, dominates much of the landscape in central Mexico along with its "twin" volcano, the dormant Iztaccihuatl.