Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Communications cut off after powerful earthquake strikes southern Taiwan

Communications cut off after powerful earthquake strikes southern Taiwan

Telephone and Internet service was disrupted across Asia on Wednesday after a powerful earthquake struck near southern Taiwan. A phone company official on the island said it will be weeks before communications return to normal.
The comments by Wu Chih-ming of Chunghwa Telecom Co. underscore the damage caused by the 6.7 magnitude tremor that hit offshore, near the southern Taiwanese town of Hengchun late Tuesday.
Two local residents were killed in the quake, and more than 40 injured.
A tsunami warning for southern Taiwan and the Philippines was issued after the tremor struck _ exactly two years after a devastating tsunami took more than 230,000 lives in a dozen countries from the Indonesian archipelago to east Africa.
The alarm was withdrawn after a predicted one-meter (three-foot) wave failed to materialize.
Chunghwa, Taiwan's largest phone company, said the quake damaged two undersea cables off the Taiwanese coast. The lines route calls and process Internet traffic for several Asian countries.
Taiwan's undersea communications cable system consists of seven lines, extending from northern and southern points on the island. Although the earthquake only damaged the two southern lines, the northern lines were also affected, because the cables are interconnected.
Wu said the damaged portion of the cables will be pulled to the surface and repaired aboard ships.
However, he said it was not clear exactly what part of the cables had been damaged, and that repair vessels were not expected to begin work before the end of the week.
He said the repairs would extend well into January.
"On average, if the problems with the cables are less than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) deep, the repair teams should only need two weeks," he said. "But if it's deeper, it could take three weeks."
With repair prospects so uncertain, there were fears of further communications difficulties in Taiwan, Asia's fifth largest economy, and additional telephone and Internet glitches in neighboring countries including Japan, China, and South Korea.
The damage to the two communications lines cut off 50 percent to 60 percent of Chunghwa's overall telephone capacity, the company said, severely affecting connections to China, Japan and Southeast Asia.
Service to the United States _ where 60 percent of capacity was lost _ was also hard hit.
Hong Kong telephone company PCCW Ltd., which also provides Internet service, said the quake cut its data capacity in half. Many Internet users were unable to access Web sites in parts of America, Taiwan and South Korea. Calls to Taiwan weren't connecting.
Internet access was cut or severely slowed in Beijing, said an official from China Netcom, China's No. 2 phone company.
The official, who would not give his name, said the cause was thought to be the earthquake, but he had no further details.
Businesses in various parts of the Chinese capital also said they were experiencing Internet access problems.
CCTV, the state-run television network, said China Telecom Corp., China's biggest phone company, was contacting counterparts in the U.S. and Europe about using satellites to make up for the shortfall.
KDDI Corp., Japan's major carrier for international calls, said its fixed-line telephone service was affected by the quake. Company spokesman Haruhiko Maeda said customers were having trouble calling India and the Middle East, which usually use the cables near Taiwan. Maeda said the company was rerouting calls through the U.S. and Europe and the company did not know how long it will take to repair the cables.
Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that international roaming service provided by Japan's major three telecommunications _ NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank _ was affected. Ministry official Akira Yamanaka said that some customers were unable to make calls using their mobile phones in some countries and territories, including Taiwan.
South Korea's largest telecom company, KT, said that the lines it uses were damaged, affecting dozens of companies and institutions, including South Korea's Foreign Ministry.
However, ordinary people using Internet and telephone services were not affected, according to Ku Ja-hong, a KT spokesman.
Chunghwa's Wu said the company was not sure where normal communications service would resume first.
"The communications cables are not divided up per country, so no country will find its situation improving sooner or later than the others," he said.
Late Wednesday evening, telephone service from Taiwan was still spotty, with few regional calls going through, and some domestic service disrupted.


Updated : 2021-05-11 09:06 GMT+08:00