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Panamanians vote for canal expansion

PANAMA CITY, Panama, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Panamanians voted overwhelmingly to support a proposal to expand the world famous canal to allow larger ships to pass through, El Siglo newspaper reported.

In a referendum Sunday, nearly 80 percent of Panamanians who participated voted yes for expansion plans that would cost an estimated $5.2 billion. The project calls for the construction of new locks and a new channel on the Panama Canal.

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Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008 and be completed in 2014.

Currently about 14,000 ships pass through the canal every year, about 5 percent of the world's maritime shipping traffic, but larger modern cargo carrying and passenger ships are too wide to use the locks in 92-year-old canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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