Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano erupted early yesterday morning, with a dramatic show of lava and rocks spewing from the crater rim and a column of smoke and ash rising into the sky.

According to reports, the explosion occurred at 6.33am (12.33pm Irish time) and a massive column of gas and ash was sent 3,000m above the volcano's crater.

Mexican Civil Defense flagged a yellow volcanic alert and urged people not to be close to the foothills of the volcano.

At 5,426m tall, Popocatepetl is the second-highest mountain in Mexico and the fifth-highest in North America.

El Popo, as it is affectionately known locally, is one of Mexico's most active volcanoes.