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Taiwan Quake Disrupts Asia Telecommunications


Much of Asia faces days of slow Internet connections and cut phone lines after a powerful earthquake in Taiwan disrupted telecommunications around the region. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong, experts say it could take days before connections are fully restored.

Millions of Internet users and businesses in Asia woke Wednesday to find they had little or no access to telecommunications.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake just off the Taiwan coast Tuesday night damaged undersea telecommunications cables that link Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Telecommunications companies and experts such as Lawrence Yeung, an electronics engineering professor at Hong Kong University, say it could take days, even weeks, to repair the damage.

"There is just a lot of volume of traffic routed to Taiwan so even though they have some back-up bandwidth that is not sufficient to support all the traffic," said Yeung.

The earthquake killed at least two people in Taiwan, injured more than 40 people and damaged some buildings.

The cable damage cut off at least half of Taiwan's main carrier Chunghwa Telecom's telephone capacity.

Hong Kong's main telecommunications carrier, PCCW, says its data capacity has been cut by half. The company is diverting Internet traffic to other routes to ease service congestion. Many users in Hong Kong Wednesday have been unable to access Web sites based in the United States, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

Many people in the city also found it difficult to make telephone calls to North America and around Asia.

The disruption is affecting business in the region's financial centers. Some bankers and traders have complained of not having access to up-to-date stock or foreign exchange prices. However, trading in those markets operated normally.

Singapore Telecom also reported slow Internet connections but said cables linking Singapore to the United States and Europe have not been affected.

Phone and Internet connections in Japan and South Korea were also affected.

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