Entrance to Panama Canal Bridge Closed due to Rain Damage
    2010-12-11 13:07:28     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhangxu
 

One of the entrances to the Centennial Bridge, which crosses the Panama Canal, was temporarily closed to transit shipping on Friday, due to cracks in the bridge's pavement, Public Works Minister Federico Suarez said.

Suarez said the decision to close the entrance was made after heavy rains left several cracks in the pavement on the 1,057-meter-long bridge.

Suarez said the bridge's structure was in good condition since its design is independent of the affected roadway.

The Centennial Bridge is one of two bridges crossing the canal -- the other being the Americas Bridge -- and it links Panama City with towns in the western region of the country. Panamanian authorities have been monitoring the condition of the bridge since Dec. 7.

Teams from the ministry, working to stabilize the bridge, warned drivers to maintain extreme caution on the access roads to the bridge and on other highways sustaining similar damage.

The torrential rainfall and flooding this week in the provinces of Panama, Colon and Darien have left 10 people dead and affected nearly 5,000 people. About 450 homes were destroyed and 1,290 were damaged.

The rains also forced authorities to suspend operations on the Panama Canal on Wednesday for 17 hours, the first time since the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.

The Panamanian government called a state of national emergency to facilitate humanitarian aid to the thousands of people affected by the disaster, and to speed up reconstruction in areas where entire communities were flooded.

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