Egypt starts digging section of Suez Canal

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s president on Tuesday inaugurated the digging of a new section of the Suez Canal, a $4 billion military-led project to expand a key corridor of world trade that he says will be finished next year.

As warplanes flew overhead in a ceremony broadcast on state television from the canal city of Ismailia, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said that the new 22 mile segment is part of several planned mega projects to boost the country’s dilapidated economy.

Egypt is the gatekeeper of the canal, one of the world’s busiest water corridors and the strategic link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. It is one of Egypt’s main sources of income, generating annual revenues of $5 billion.

The canal was opened for navigation in 1869. Its official website says the original construction of the 99-mile long waterway took ten years of “excruciating and poorly compensated labor by Egyptian workers, who were drafted at the rate of 20,000 every ten months from the ranks of the peasantry.”

The inauguration of the new segment comes on the 58th anniversary of the nationalization of the canal by former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser. State television broadcast images from the event of workers and dozens of bulldozers digging in unison as patriotic music played in the background.