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Mexico volcano spews gas into skies near capital

Popocatepetl belching a column of steam looms over residents of Xalitzintla municipality in Puebla on Wednesday.

Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano has been spewing gas, water vapor and incandescent materials into the skies near the country's capital for days, registering at least 14 "exhalations" late on Wednesday and in the early hours of Thursday, according to local media.

The most significant emissions came on Tuesday afternoon and were accompanied by a small quantity of ash, scientists said, according to Excelsior newspaper reported  (Link in Spanish).

Local civil protection officials have been giving evacuation training in communities near Popocatepetl ahead of a possible eruption, Reuters reported.

The 17,886-foot volcano 40 miles southeast of the Mexican capital is the country's second-highest peak and has experienced at least 15 major eruptions in the last 500 years.

In November, Popocatepetl spewed a burst of ash three miles into the air after breaking through a dome of lava.  The volcano has been erupting intermittently since December 1994.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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