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Panama Canal, closed due to flood, reopens

Dec. 10, 2010 at 1:51 AM   |   Comments

PANAMA CITY, Panama, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The Panama Canal has reopened after being closed to ship traffic because of flooding in the region, officials said.

The canal reopened Thursday, 17 hours after prolonged heavy rains and flooding required that it be closed for just the third time since it was opened 96 years ago, CNN reported.

Flooding in the region forced thousands of people to evacuate their flooded homes. Two 11-year-old children and an adult were missing, Newsroom Panama reported online Wednesday.

The rains, which forecasters say will hang around for months, damaged Panamanian crops and roads, including the collapse of one to the Centennial Bridge.

The Panama Canal Authority said ship transit was "temporarily suspended" Wednesday because the Alajuela and Gatun lakes were at the highest levels ever recorded, Newsroom Panama reported. The 48-mile-long, man-made shipping channel was closed in 1989 when the United States invaded Panama to depose strongman Manuel Noriega, and in 1915 and 1916 because of landslides, CNN said.

Manuel Benitez, executive vice president of operations for the canal authority, said the closure was necessary because transit through the canal could be affected by the currents of the Chagres River, which flows into the channel on the way to Gamboa.

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