Heavy rain and flooding has forced Panama Canal to close for ships for the first time in over two decades or third time in its 96 years after its operation. Heavy rains has caused the nearby lakes flowing into the key transport route that handles five percent of global trade. The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reported that downpours had filled the Gatun and Alhajuela lakes to historic levels, forcing it to “temporarily” suspend traffic while more than a thousand people in Panama were evacuated.
Passage through sections of the canal have been temporarily blocked on other occasions as a result of accidents, but not operations along the entire length of the canal as was the case Wednesday.
Every year, around five percent of all international trade passes through the 80-kilometer (50-mile) man-made artery linking the Atlantic to the Pacific, with around 40 ships passing through the canal each day.
President Ricardo Martinelli said that at least eight people have died in Panama including two girls who drowned in a river as a result of the heaviest rains in the 73 years of Panama history. Meteorologists say the heavy rains are part of the La Nina weather phenomenon.
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About Panama Canal
Panama Canal is a man-made ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most important route for international maritime trade. The canal alone took about 10 years to complete (built from 1904 to 1914). The building of the canal was consider as one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects in the world. The canal has cut short the shipping route while replacing the long and treacherous route via the Drake Passage and Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America where a ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (5,900 mi), under half the 22,500 km (14,000 mi) route around Cape Horn.