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Taiwan earthquake triggers a “digital tsunami” in Asia
A massive undersea earthquake of 7.1 on the Richter scale off Taiwan’s southern coast on December 26 killed two people and injured at least 42 more.
Hundreds of rescue workers were sent to the worst hit town of Pingtung. Three houses collapsed. In one, a 36-year-old mother died as she tried to protect her twin sons. Her brother was also killed. Other buildings, including 62 schools, reported damage worth around $US1.23 million.
Agence France Press reported: “People in Pingtung rushed into the streets in panic during the tremors, which triggered power blackouts in more than 3,000 houses.” High-rise buildings across Taiwan shook, while telephone, road and rail services experienced temporary disruption.
However, while the immediate physical impact was relatively light compared to the 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Taiwan in 1999 that killed 2,400, the latest tremor created what has been dubbed a “digital tsunami”. By damaging seven of the eight major undersea fiber-optic communication cables near southern Taiwan, the earthquake interrupted Internet and telecommunications within East Asia and to Europe and the US.
SMW4 was the only cable left unaffected. Cables such as Flag Telecom, East Asia Crossing (EAC) and Asia-Pacific Cable Network (APCN) were only partially affected. Internet connection in, and to and from, the region remains slow.
Taiwan’s largest telephone company, Chunghwa Telecom, said the damage to undersea cables had disrupted almost all the island’s phone communications with other Asian countries and cut capacity to the US to 60 percent. Japan’s telecom giant NTT reported disruption to 1,400 phone lines and 84 international phone lines, which severely affected the country’s phone capacity to South East Asia.