Nicaragua has begun surveying properties along the route of a planned canal linking the Atlantic with the Pacific. And that's alarming homeowners who fear they'll lose their homes.

Teams from the China-based HKND Group have been interviewing property owners in the Rivas region of southwest Nicaragua, where the first phase of the 173-mile (278-kilometer) canal is to be built starting late this year.

Many say they're worried that police and soldiers accompany the teams. Canal Commission spokesman Telemaco Talavera says that's just for protection, not to intimidate property owners.

The law insists on payment for expropriated property. But compensation usually is to be based on declared tax value, which is often far below the market value of homes. That has many fearing they won't be able to find replacement housing.