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Panama Canal closed by flooding

Flooding has forced the Panama Canal to be closed for the first time in 21 years, with at least two people being killed by heavy rain in the region.

Authorities recovered the bodies of two girls who were on a boat that capsized in the town of Chepo in the south-east part of the country.

More than 1,000 people were also evacuated from their homes as what authorities described as ‘historic flooding’ wreaked havoc across the country.

“We’re taking measures to normalise transit operations in the coming hours,” executive vice president of canal operations Manuel Benitez said.

The last time the canal closed was on 20 December 1989, when US troops invaded the country to topple president Manuel Noriega.

The country’s Civil Protection System declared that eastern Panama was on high alert and issued evacuation orders for about 1,500 people in dozens of flooded neighbourhoods.

About 5% of the world’s naval commerce moves through the canal, with American ships accounting for most of its traffic.

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