Undersea Internet cables undergoing repairs after typhoon

Some undersea fiber-optic cables that carry Internet and communications traffic to parts of Southeast Asia and China have already been repaired while officials continue to assess damage to others, a spokesperson for Chunghwa Telecom said Friday.

Six of the important fiber-optic cables were damaged by undersea landslides caused by Typhoon Morakot as it passed Taiwan. One was knocked out on Aug. 9 as Morakot hit the east coast of the island and the others were damaged after the typhoon passed to the other side.

The damaged cables disrupted Internet and telecommunications between Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and parts of Southeast Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines. However, Chunghwa Telecom of Taiwan restored service quickly by using backup systems and rerouting traffic to other cables.

The APCN2 (Asia Pacific Cable Network, number two) was damaged in at least two places, said Chen Hui-yen, a deputy director at Chunghwa’s network management division. One part, which runs between Singapore and Malaysia, was fixed Friday morning, she said, while a portion of the cable near Taiwan has not been repaired yet, although a team has been dispatched to the location.

She did not know the cause of the problem with the cable section between Singapore and Malaysia. She said some voice traffic and Internet traffic has been affected by the outages but rerouting has alleviated most problems.

The five other undersea cables damaged near Taiwan by Morakot were the SWM-3 (Southeast Asia – Middle East – Western Europe 3), the APCN (Asia Pacific Cable Network), C2C Cable Network East Asia Crossing (EAC), C2C Cable Network (C2C) and FLAG (Fiber Optic Link Around The Globe) North Asia Loop (FNAL).

One factor complicating repairs of the undersea cables has been trying to coordinate the various groups invested in the cables, she said. She was unable to offer a time frame for when cable repairs might be completed.

Undersea fiber optic cables carry the bulk of the world’s Internet and communications traffic. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and deep sea landslides can disrupt the cables.

Typhoon Morakot was originally welcomed by people in Taiwan as a potential savior for a drought that had been affecting much of the tropical island. Some cities, including the old southern capital of Tainan and the norther port city of Keelung, had already imposed water restrictions. But Morakot brought far more rain than expected, causing massive floods and landslides on the island.

The presidential office said the rains from Morakot were the heaviest in 50 years.

Typhoon Morakot has been blamed for the deaths of 116 people in Taiwan, according to government figures, and officials expect the toll to continue rising. Rescue workers believe over 300 people in one village, Hsiaolin, may have been buried alive in a massive landslide of mud and debris.

Rescue workers saved 2,200 people stranded by landslides and washed out roads and bridges in mountain villages near the southern city of Kaohsiung on Thursday. Thousands remain stranded in disaster areas and rescue work continues.

Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture estimates the typhoon destroyed NT$10.67 billion (US$324.3 million) of crops and other goods, including tens of thousands of livestock such as pigs, chickens and ducks.

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