Intel's Chengdu Operations Remain Offline After Quake

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Intel's test and assembly plant in Chengdu remained offline on Tuesday, as the region in southwestern China reeled from the effects of a devastating earthquake that struck on Monday afternoon.

Chinese officials put the death toll from the quake at nearly 10,000 on Tuesday morning, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake -- which shook buildings in far-off Beijing and Bangkok -- had a magnitude of 7.5, while China's State Seismological Center measured a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale.

As initial reports of damage and casualties emerged from areas hit by the quake, Chinese soldiers and rescue workers were being rushed to the region to search for survivors trapped under rubble and deliver relief supplies, Xinhua said.

The epicenter of the quake was close to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and one of the most important economic centers in southwestern China. Power and water supplies around the city were cut off by the quake. A lack of power and transmission problems rendered 2,300 base stations inoperable, taking down the city's mobile telephone network.

As buildings shook in Chengdu, people poured into the streets. Workers at plants operated by Intel and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), the country's largest chip maker, were evacuated and production came to a halt after the quake on Monday.

Intel employs around 1,600 workers at a test and assembly plant outside Chengdu, where the company assembles chipsets and microprocessors. None of the workers at Intel's plant were injured by the quake.

"The assembly test facility is running under backup power as local power and water have been disconnected pending a full seismic assessment. As a result employees have been sent home until Wednesday," said Nick Jacobs, an Intel spokesman in Singapore.

Intel hopes to resume production once the assessment of the earthquake's impact is completed, but the situation "remains dynamic," Jacobs said.

To what extent the quake and plant shutdown will affect the availability of Intel products remains to be seen. "It is too early to say. However, bear in mind Intel has a number of assembly test facilities at other locations including Malaysia, the Philippines, Shanghai, and Costa Rica," he said.

Other companies, including Monolithic Power Systems, also kept their Chengdu manufacturing plants closed on Tuesday, pending a full assessment of the quake's impact. "The facility will be closed temporarily to check power, equipment and facilities, and to provide employees time with their families," the chip maker said, reporting that all of its employees were safe and accounted for.

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