Ship Accidents Knock Countries Offline

Anchors cut undersea cables
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2012 2:37 PM CST
Ship Accidents Knock Countries Offline
Workers haul part of a fibre optic cable onto the shore at the Kenyan port town of Mombasa in this 2009 file photo.   (Getty Images)

At least nine countries have suffered telecom outages this month, following a pair of accidents in which ships severed essential undersea cables, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the most recent incident this weekend, a ship dragging its anchor off the coast of Kenya caught on and destroyed a fiber-optic cable known as The East African Marine Systems. That cable had itself been handling data rerouted from three other cables broken 10 days ago.

Telecommunications went down from Zimbabwe to Djibouti, and engineers are now attempting to reroute the data yet again. Ultimately repairing the cables should take about three weeks, and necessitate the use of remote-controlled submarines to haul the cables to the surface. "It's a very unusual situation," said the head of West Indian Ocean Cable Co, the largest shareholder in the system. "I believe these were accidental incidents, although more will be known when we bring the cables up from the sea bed." (Read more telecommunications stories.)

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