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August 18, 2009

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Quakes slow cyber connections

SHANGHAI'S international Internet connections slowed significantly yesterday after earthquakes rocked Taiwan and southern Japan. It was unclear last night how long repairs might take.

Millions of Chinese Netizens were unable to connect to overseas Websites or use popular online chat tools yesterday afternoon.

About 15 million MSN instant message users in Shanghai and other parts of China were affected as the main servers are in the United States. Connections to most overseas Websites including those run by Yahoo and the New York Times were also clogged.

The chain of events that led to the service disruption had its origin in Typhoon Morakot, which struck Taiwan on August 7 and led to a later breakdown in an undersea telecommunications cable system.

Local Internet traffic was not influenced because transmissions were routed to a backup channel. But that cable failed yesterday near Busan, South Korea, apparently the victim of the earthquakes, according to China Unicom.

The failure affected Asian communications to the US and Europe.

The epicenter of the first quake, which struck at 8:05am yesterday, was about 188 kilometers southeast of Hualien on Taiwan's east coast at a depth of 11km, the island's weather bureau said. The US Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.7.

The second quake, which was centered close to the first at a depth of 20km and struck at 6:10pm, measured 6.1, the Taiwan weather bureau said. It was also felt in Japan's Ishigaki Island.

"We've sent a team to repair the broken cable, but we can't give a detailed timetable for when it will be completed," said Song Guixiang, a public relations official for China Telecom.

The schedule will depend heavily on weather conditions, Song said.

Repairs are handled by a team comprising the carriers that use the cable.

In most cases it takes one to two months to fully repair damaged undersea cables. In the meantime, telecom operators will try to reroute traffic to operating cables and satellite systems.

Domestic Internet connections and international call services were normal yesterday, the carriers said.



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