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May 24, 2017

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Panama Canal celebrates 100th anniversary

PANAMA CITY--Panama celebrated the 100th anniversary of its famous canal Friday with a ceremony and gala, even as it scrambled to make up lost time by enlarging it to maintain its competitiveness in the 21st century.

The canal, an engineering masterwork that transformed global commerce, opened on Aug. 15, 1914, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and saving ships the long, dangerous trip around South America.

Guests marking the anniversary soaked up the sun at the canal's Miraflores locks, singing "Happy Birthday" to the waterway and snapping pictures of a four-meter (13-foot) chocolate-cake replica of the locks as dancers performed traditional Panamanian numbers.

Chief administrator Jorge Quijano said it was just a normal work day for the canal, which handles five percent of global maritime trade.

"Today is a regular day of operations because like every day an average of 35 ships will shorten the distance between the Atlantic and the Pacific," he said.

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