Earthquake disrupts Internet access in Asia

A series of powerful earthquakes damaged undersea cables and disupted Internet connections in Asia

A pair of powerful earthquakes off the coast of Taiwan damaged undersea cables and disrupted Internet access in Asia on Wednesday.

"All of the ISPs in Singapore are affected," said Michael Sim, a spokesman for Starhub Internet Pte. Ltd., which provides cable and wireless Internet services, referring to connectivity problems in Singapore. Sim blamed the disruption on damage to undersea cables caused by the earthquakes.

"Everybody's doing their best to migrate [traffic] to alternate routes or to fix the affected routes," Sim said.

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck off the southwest coast of Taiwan, near the town of Pingtung, at 8:26 p.m., local time, on Tuesday, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau. That quake was followed by another eight minutes later with a magnitude of 6.4. Southern Taiwan was also hit by several powerful aftershocks measuring between magnitude 5.9 and 5.2, it said.

The quakes, among the most powerful to hit Taiwan in recent years, left at least two people dead, according to press reports.

Earthquake damage to the undersea cables hit Taiwan's telecommunications infrastructure hard, with just 40 percent of international calling capacity to the U.S. functioning normally, Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd., the country's largest operator, said in a statement. Calling capacity to Japan and China were also affected, with 11 percent and 10 percent of capacity operational, respectively, it said.

Damage to the cables also disrupted Internet access in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, Chunghwa said, noting that it will take up to three weeks to repair the affected cable systems.

In Beijing, a China Network Communications Group Corp. (China Netcom) representative, who gave only his surname Chen, said some international connections had been affected. That disruption left some international Web sites accessible in Beijing, while other could not be reached. Chen did not know when full service might be restored.

(Steven Schwankert, in Beijing, and Martyn Williams, in Tokyo, contributed to this report.)

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