New Volcano? Mexican Villagers Scared After Finding Burned Goats and 480-Degree Soil

A cloud of ash and smoke spews from the Popocatepetl Volcano as seen from the Izta-Popo National Park in the central Mexican state of Puebla on January 31, 2016. Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty

While the U.S. has been wrapped up in its neverending Russia drama this week, people in the Mexican town of Pueblo Viejo have had bigger concerns to deal with—like their fear that a volcano might be developing underneath them.

Suspicion over the formation of a volcano in the Michoacán state started last Sunday, when villagers discovered that some of their goats had been inexplicably burned. Then a nearby soccer field started to break apart, releasing steam, ash and gas into the air, according to Notimex. When alarmed residents contacted authorities, researchers took the temperature of the soil and found it to be roughly 250 degrees Celsius (more than 480 degrees Fahrenheit).

Experts eventually concluded there's probably no volcano coming together underground, given that "until now, there has been no earth movement in the area," as State Civil Protection Coordinator Pedro Carlos Mandujano told Notimex. It's likely just a geothermal phenomenon occurring as the soil is composting, according to the Weather Channel.

Reuters reported that locals still weren't convinced that no natural disaster was on the horizon. Some residents simply evacuated, while others criticized the scientists for not giving them enough information about the underground situation.

"We are afraid that if it is a volcano, all our relatives are here," Pueblo Viejo resident Mayra Amezcua Chávez told El Universal in Spanish. "We will have to go elsewhere to live."

People may be on high alert because of Pueblo Viejo's proximity to Parícutin, a cinder-cone volcano about 200 miles away. Parícutin was the first volcano researchers could track for its entire life: It formed suddenly in a cornfield in 1943 and within a year had grown more than than 1,000 feet tall, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It went dormant in 1952.

In total, Mexico has about 3,000 volcanoes because of its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. One of its most active sites is the Colima volcano, which is on the west coast and erupted as recently as February.