[PANAMA CITY] Crews began flooding part of the widened Panama Canal for its first operational tests, the group responsible for the massive project said.
The five days of flooding to pour 5 million cubic meters of water into the lock began Wednesday, a day earlier than expected.
The Panama Canal Authority said the area around the new Agua Fria locks in Gatun, on the Atlantic coast, is the site of the tests.
Completely filling the lock will take several months, builders consortium Grupo Unidos Por el Canal has said.
GUPC is carrying out a major upgrade to the canal's system of locks, to allow the waterway to accommodate ships carrying up to 14,000 containers of freight, triple the current size.
Upgrades began in 2007 and were scheduled to be completed in 2014, but the work, now costing some US$5.25 billion, has seen repeated delays.