Thousands of Panamanians streamed toward Paraiso,a small town along the Canal,to celebrate a double ceremony:the beginning of the expansion and the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Torrijos-Carter treaty. Go here to see a video of the Panama Canal Railway going alongside all the cars.
The snow cone man dreams of many sales today.
This bus declares its loyalty to Panama,bearing the flag and the sign of a local legislator.
Cars on their way to Paraiso. Behind the bus you can see the top of a container ship going through the Miraflores Locks.
The following is an AP report:
Panama blasted away part of a hillside next to the canal on Monday,marking the start of the waterway’s biggest expansion since it opened 93 years ago.
In the presence of former President Carter,who signed the 1977 treaty that gave Panama control of the waterway,Panamanian President Martin Torrijos celebrated the start of construction on two wider sets of locks being added to both sides of the canal.
“We are witnesses to an exceptional and unique act,”Torrijos said moments after the explosion sent up a curtain of smoke and water. Go here to see a video of the blast.
13,000 lbs. of dynamite (BBC news)
Red,white and blue balloons were released right after the blast. (yahoo.com)
The $5.25 billion expansion is expected to double the 50-mile canal’s capacity and lower the price of consumer goods on the East Coast of the United States by allowing wider vessels to squeeze through with more cargo.
About two-thirds of the cargo that passed through the canal is headed to or from the United States. China is the Panama Canal’s second-largest user.
The waterway now moves 4 percent of the world’s cargo. The new locks,approved in a referendum nearly a year ago,are expected to be ready for use between 2014 and 2015.
The Panama Canal Authority,the autonomous government agency that runs the canal,is borrowing up to $2.3 billion between 2009 and 2011 to help finance the project. It expects to pay that back by increasing ship tolls an average of 3.5 percent a year.
In addition to benefiting international trade,the new locks are expected to generate more revenue for the canal and Panama’s government,which is struggling to pay back more than $10 billion in debt and battle poverty that affects some 40 percent of the population.
“I’m proud of the grand plans for this expansion,”said Carter,who signed the 1977 treaty with Torrijos’father,strongman Omar Torrijos,that led to the U.S. handover of the canal to Panama on Dec. 31,1999.
Under Panama’s control,canal accidents and the time needed to transverse the canal are down,while revenues have increased.
President Theodore Roosevelt arranged for Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903 to build the canal. By some accounts,more than 25,000 people died during American and French efforts to build the engineering marvel,which opened on Aug. 15,1914.
Also attending Monday’s ceremony were Sen. Robert Byrd,D-W.Va.,and several Central American leaders and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.