Gases and hot rock fragments continue to spout out of Mexico's Popocatépetl volcano, dusting towns on its flanks with volcanic ash.

But unlike recent days, the ash has not spread to neighboring cities.

Civil defense radio dispatcher Dulce Maria Casquera says the volcano alert level remains high, but no evacuations are planned at present.

Casquera says that apart from the ash, the 17,886-foot (5,450-meter) volcano has been relatively calm.

However, the National Disaster Prevention Center says in a report Wednesday that that some glowing rock fragments rolled about a quarter mile (half kilometer) down the slopes.

Authorities this week raised the alert level due to increasing activity at the peak southeast of Mexico City. Its most violent eruption in 1,200 years occurred on Dec. 18, 2000.

It's now at the fifth step on a seven-level warning scale.

The National Disaster Prevention Center says a lava dome is growing in the volcano's crater.

The center said in a statement late Monday the volcano could experience "significant explosions of growing intensity that hurl incandescent rocks significant distances," large ash showers and possible flows of mud and molten rocks down the volcano's flanks.

Last August, the volcano spewed out ash from its crater.

Mexico's national disaster prevention agency said the volcano shot out ash for more than a half mile (a kilometer) into the sky four times and there was a possibility that the ash could have fallen onto Mexico City.

The name Popocatépetl comes from the Nahuatl words for "it smokes" and "mountain."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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