February 8, 2008 4:52 p.m.
CAIRO, Egypt -- A ship's anchor lying at the bottom of the sea was behind one of the two cuts last week in undersea Internet cables around the Middle East that caused dramatic outages across the region, the cable-owner company said Friday.
FLAG Telecom said its repair ship managed to recover one end of the cut Falcon cable in the Persian Gulf, 35 miles north of Dubai, between the Emirates and Oman.
At the site, the FLAG crew discovered an abandoned ship's anchor which the company said was behind the cut last Friday. The anchor, weighing over 5.5 tons, was pulled up to the surface. The FLAG repair ship is now trying to reconnect the cable. The repairs are expected to be done by Sunday despite rough weather conditions, FLAG said.
Meanwhile, a second ship was continuing repair work off the north coast of Egypt, where the first undersea cable was cut Jan. 30, near the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.
That cuts involved two cables -- the FLAG Europe-Asia cable, owned by FLAG, which stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, and another cable lying next to it, identified as SEA-ME-WE 4, or South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 cable, owned by a consortium of 16 international telecommunication companies.
It wasn't yet clear what had caused the other cut, on a very narrow route linking Egypt and Palermo, on the Italian island of Sicily. Egypt's telecommunication ministry has said no ships were registered near the location when the cut occurred north of Alexandria. The repairs off Egypt are also expected to be completed by Sunday, FLAG said.
The two unusual cuts -- within two days of one another and involving three Internet cables -- led to disruptions in services, slowed down businesses and hampered personal Internet usage. FLAG said it has fully restored circuits to some customers and switched others to alternative routes.
Large-scale Internet disruptions are rare, but East Asia suffered nearly two months of outages and slow service after an earthquake damaged undersea cables near Taiwan in December 2006.