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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
In pictures: Panama Canal expansion

A man holds balloons in readiness for the ceremony

On Monday, a ceremony on the outskirts of Panama City marked the beginning of a $5.2 billion Panama Canal expansion project, which aims to double the canal's capacity.

Hundreds of balloons are released

Despite blistering heat and occasional storms, thousands of Panamanians lined the banks of the canal to celebrate the start of the works.

A Panamanian surrounded by national flags

The expansion plan was overwhelmingly backed by voters in October. It is due to be completed by 2014 - in time for the canal's centenary celebrations.

A "post-Panamax" container ship

This Singapore container ship, too wide to cross the Panama canal at its current width, is having its cargo transferred to the other side of the canal at a private port.

President Roosevelt

The canal has historic links to the US, which used to own and run it. US President Theodore Roosevelt, pictured left in 1906, negotiated for the US to take control of the canal.

The Panama Canal construction site in 1913

Steam shovels clear the last pile of rock in 1913, completing one of several deep cuts along the route of the Panama Canal. Construction cost $375 million and over 25,000 lives.

(l to r) Alvaro Uribe, Vivian Fernandez de Torrijos, Jimmy Carter, Jose Miguel Insulza and Daniel Ortega

The US president who handed the canal back to Panama in 1977, Jimmy Carter, attended Monday's ceremony alongside South American dignitaries.

People waving flags and holding photos aloft at the ceremony

Today Panamanians are extremely proud of their canal. They held up photos of President Martin Torrijos (pictured far right), and of his father, former General Omar Torrijos (left).

An explosion on the banks of the canal

Dynamite was used to blast away part of a hillside next to the canal. The project will involve the removal of 47 million cubic metres of earth and rock.

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