Wednesday, December 27, 2006

7.1 quake cuts of Asia's internet

A Boxing Day earthquake caused panic in the Philippines after a tsunami warning was issued. The warnings followed a 7.1 magnitude quake which hit off the coast of Taiwan [22.023°N, 120.539°E] [BBC]. It comes exactly two years after a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami which killed over 200,000 and displaced millions. This latest earthquake has had a devastating effect on internet communications for millions in Asia [BBC]. Banks and businesses in Taiwan, South Korea, China and Japan reported telephone and internet problems. Taiwan's largest telephone company, Chunghwa Telecom Co, said damage to the undersea cable had disrupted 98% of Taiwan's communications with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. Repairs could take three weeks, Vice-General Manager Lin Jen-hung said. Telecommunications companies in Hong Kong, Japan and China also reported problems. China's biggest telecoms provider, China Telecommunications Group, said that communications cables to the US and to Europe had been damaged.
"Internet connections have been seriously affected, and phone links and dedicated business lines have also been affected to some degree," a spokesperson said. Technicians have been scrambled to repair the damage but it will not be soon enough for some. Trading on some financial markets all but halted, but some overcame the reliance of the internet by going back to old fashioned methods. It highlights the reliance that many place both on technology and the internet.

It is not the first time the cables between the US and China have been damaged. In 2001 the cable was damaged and it took weeks to repair [BBC]. At the time millions in China were said to have been cut off from the World Wide Web, and other parts of Asia were reporting reduced speeds and difficult access to international sites. The cable which was affected stretches under the Pacific Ocean from Shanghai, China, to the United States. China Telecom said at the time they were “sparing no effort” to get China reconnected but the cable took weeks to repair. It was not the only connection to the outside world, but was said to carry the most traffic.
As parts of Asia were clearing up following Tuesday’s earthquake, a small town in the north of Britain was coming to terms with an earthquake. The 3.5 magnitude tremor hit near a town called Dumfries [55.10º N / 3.64º W] at 10:40 GMT, a little under two hours before the Taiwan quake [BBC Scotland]. There were no reported injuries or damage. The British Geological Survey reported several witness as saying, “people came out into the street”, “we felt one big bump”, “a tremendous crack and rumble” and “the whole house shook”.

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