Heavy rain closes Panama Canal

Thursday 09th Dec 2010 by theWeather Club

Traffic through the Panama Canal – which connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans – has been temporarily suspended because of heavy rain. The canal authority said the rains had pushed water levels in lakes that form part of the waterway, to levels potentially dangerous to shipping. It is the first time the canal has had to close since the US invasion of Panama in 1989. The canal was closed at midday 8th December, and some vessels were left to idle in the waterway. Around 14,000 ships pass through the Panama Canal each year, representing about 5% of world trade.

Passage through sections of this famous waterway has been suspended in recent years due to accidents but the whole canal has not been closed. Panama – along with other Central and South American countries – has been experiencing its heaviest May-December rainy season in decades. It is this that has caused the high levels of water in lakes forcing the closure of the canal.

The Panama Canal links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the isthmus connecting Central and South America, and is a vital artery of world trade as well as being the cornerstone of Panama's economy. Built by the US in 1904-1914 the canal passed into Panamanian control in 1999. The canal authority said it was opening flood gates to reduce the water level in one of the lakes.