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Europe

Damaged Cables Cut Phone Lines Linking Europe, Asia, Mideast

Internet and phone connections between Europe, the Middle East and Asia have been severely disrupted after three underwater cables were severed and it may take until Dec 31 before normal service is re-established.

A woman on a telephone

It may take until the end of the year till phones lines between Europe and Asia are re-established

France Telecom said on Friday, Dec 19 that the exact cause of the damaged submarine cables in the Mediterranean were not known but added it was sending a ship to fix the lines.

"The causes of the cut, which is located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia, on sections linking Sicily to Egypt, remain unclear," a statement said, while a spokesman said it was unlikely to have been an attack.

The company said that much of the communications between Europe and Asia was being rerouted through the United States but admitted that the incident had seriously hampered services to several Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

It is thought that 65 percent of traffic to India was down, while services to Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan have also been severely affected.

"Rare situation"

An afternoon toll released by France Telecom said that 100 percent of traffic was lost in the Maldives Indian Ocean islands, with the Gulf state of Qatar and Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden, also losing over 70 percent of their traffic.

The submarine cables are jointly owned by several dozen different countries. One of the cables is 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) long and links 33 different countries while a second is 20,000 kilometers long and serves 14 states.

"If there was just one cable down we could have used the other two," said France Telecom spokesman Louis-Michel Aymard. "But all three are down so this puts us in a very difficult situation. This is a very rare situation," he said.

The company said it was sending a ship to fix the lines but that it would not arrive until Monday. It may take until December 31 to reestablish normal service.