Typhoon Morakot Severs Three Undersea Internet Cables

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Deep sea landslides caused by Typhoon Morakot severed at least three undersea fiber-optic telecommunications cables and disrupted three others, causing Internet service disruptions in parts of Asia.

The SWM-3 (Southeast Asia - Middle East - Western Europe 3) cable that connects to Taiwan near the east coast city of Taitung was first hit by undersea landslides on August 9 as Typhoon Morakot approached the island, according to a statement from Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's largest telecommunications provider.

On Wednesday, further undersea landslides caused by Morakot severed two more undersea fiber optic cables, APCN (Asia Pacific Cable Network) and APCN2, the company said.

The cable breaks disrupted Internet and telecommunications connectivity to China and parts of Southeast Asia, including Singapore, the Philippines and Hong Kong, but Chunghwa was able to restore service quickly by using backup systems and rerouting traffic to other cables.

The three other cables disrupted by undersea landslides were the C2C Cable Network East Asia Crossing (EAC), C2C Cable Network (C2C) and FLAG (Fiber Optic Link Around The Globe) North Asia Loop (FNAL).

Chunghwa said it has already sent workers to assess damage and begin repairs on the undersea cables. The company was unable to immediately say when the cables might be mended. To keep Internet and telecommunications flowing in the region, Chunghwa has been in contact with other telecommunications service providers and rerouted traffic on unaffected cables.

The company warned that unaffected cables carrying additional Internet and telecommunications traffic may not be able to handle all normal traffic flow, thereby causing slow service at some times.

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 killed 103 people in Taiwan, according to government figures, and officials expect the toll to continue to rise. The military and police were on Wednesday able to save 700 people stranded in mountain villages near the southern city of Kaohsiung after landslides and mud flows engulfed entire towns, including Cishan Township. Thousands remain stranded in disaster areas and rescue work continues.

Taiwan's Council of Agriculture estimates the typhoon destroyed NT$9.01 billion (US$273.9 million) of crops and other goods.

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