Flooding Forces Panama Canal to Close

December 9, 2010; 8:06 AM ET
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The Panama Canal was closed for the third time in its history on Wednesday due to flooding rain.

CNN.com reports officials closed the canal when heavy rain forced the water behind the Gatun Dam to rise. The Gatun Dam is located in northern Panama and led to the formation of Lake Gatun, a major section of the canal.

A nearly stationary area of low pressure was the culprit behind the torrential rainfall.

The low unleashed 4.39 inches of rain on Tocumen, Panama, in 24 hours, ending at 7 p.m. EST Wednesday. An additional 1.52 inches of rain fell in the preceding 24 hours.

Tocumen is situated just northeast of Panama City.

A container ship passes through the Panama Canal's Gatun Lock in Colon, Panama. (AP File Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

Prior to Wednesday, there have been only two other times when the officials closed the Panama Canal.

According to CNN.com, the canal was shut down in 1989 after the United States invaded Panama to remove Manuel Noriega from power. Landslides prompted the canal's closure from late 1915 to mid-1916.

The United States completed building the Panama Canal in 1914.

The flooding rain is also being blamed on the deaths of at least eight people across Panama, according to the Associated Press. Roughly 1,500 people were ordered to evacuate their flooded neighborhoods.

Additional rain will plague Panama today.


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