Quake takes out mobile network in Chengdu

Intel facility in city also affected by quake that killed thousands

An earthquake registering 7.8 on the Richter Scale knocked out mobile phone service in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, although fixed-line networks remained in service, Chinese state television reported yesterday afternoon.

About 2,300 base stations were affected by power outages or transmission problems, China Mobile's Sichuan office told the state-run Xinhua News Agency, adding that repairs were under way.

China's online video sites were quick to receive footage shot during the earthquake by users, which seems to confirm the availability of internet service there.

The semiconductor industry and China's growing software outsourcing industry take advantage of Chengdu's status as China's fifth-largest city and southwest China's largest academic centre.

Although the Chengdu region is not considered a major manufacturing centre for semiconductors, Intel began semiconductor manufacturing there in 2005, and employs 600 at a testing and assembly facility in Chengdu.

"We are now determining if this has implications for Intel's operation in Chengdu. Our first priority is the safety of our people," said Danny Cheung, an Intel spokesman based in Singapore, in an e-mail.

Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) also operates a testing and assembly facility there, according to its website. Sources say that SMIC evacuated a fabrication plant and halted production as a result of the quake.

The earthquake occurred at 2:28 pm Beijing local time. The State Seismological Bureau (SSB) originally reported the quake registered at 7.6 on the Richter Scale, but later upgraded it to 7.8. The epicenter was approximately 55km northwest of Chengdu.

The quake was felt as far away as coastal Zhejiang province and Beijing. Beijing experienced a separate 3.9 earthquake at 2:35 p.m.

The strength of thes 7.8 earthquake equals China's most famous temblor in modern history, a July 1976 event in Tangshan, east of Beijing. Estimated deaths for the Tangshan earthquake range from over 200,000 to more than 700,000.

By the end of the day Monday, 8,533 people were confirmed dead as a result of the earthquake, and as many as 900 children may be buried at a high school in an unspecified location, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

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