Factfile: Panama canal

Panama’s government has unveiled an ambitious $5.25 billion plan to expand the country’s inter-oceanic canal to allow it to handle big cargo ships. Here are some facts about the canal.

More than 25,000 workers died digging the Panama Canal
More than 25,000 workers died digging the Panama Canal
  • When opened in 1914, the canal was the single most expensive project undertaken by the United States at a cost of $352 million, four times the price of the Suez Canal. The work was completed under budget and on time.
  • The new expansion plan centres on building new locks 1400 feet (427 metres) long and 180 feet (55 metres) wide – 40% longer and 64% wider than existing locks
  • France’s Paul Gauguin, one of the leading painters of the post-impressionist period, helped to dig the Panama Canal at one stage. But he found the work tough and he left the country after he was arrested for urinating in public. From 1891 he lived in Tahiti and elsewhere in the South Pacific.
  • More than 25,000 workers died digging the Panama Canal, mainly struck down by malaria, typhoid and yellow fever. Doctors learned much from the deaths, confirming that malaria and yellow fever were spread by mosquitoes and not bad air.
  • The amount of rock and soil removed from the ground to create the canal was enormous. Material from one nine-mile (15 km) section known as the Gaillard Cut would have been sufficient to form a wall of a similar size to the Great Wall of China, to span from San Francisco to New York.
  • Ships passing through the canal pay tolls. Canal authorities even charged Richard Halliburton to swim the 50-mile canal in 1928. It was the lowest ever toll charged at $0.36.


Source: AFP

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