Two undersea telecommunication cables were cut on Tuesday evening, knocking out Internet access to much of Egypt, disrupting the world’s back office in India and slowing down service for some Verizon customers. One cable was damaged near Alexandria, Egypt, and the other in the waters off Marseille, France, telecommunications operators said. The two cables, which are separately managed and operated, were damaged within hours of each other. Damage to undersea cables, while rare, can result from movement of geologic faults or possibly from the dragging anchor of a ship. Hundreds of undersea cables often owned and managed by international consortiums keep telecommunications running worldwide. A surge in phones and Internet connections in Asia and to new financial hubs like Dubai has increased traffic on many of these cables.
Most disrupted communications were quickly rerouted through other cables. “Some of our customers were impacted” by the damaged cables on Wednesday morning until the company rerouted traffic, said Linda Laughlin, a spokeswoman for Verizon. The company is building a trans-Pacific cable from Oregon to China, South Korea and Taiwan because it needs more capacity in Asia, she said. A trade group in India estimated that roughly 60 percent of the country’s Internet users were affected, but many large companies switched quickly to backup plans, and business was not significantly disrupted. One of the affected cables stretches from France through the Mediterranean and Red Seas, then around India to Singapore. Known as Sea Me We 4, the cable is owned by 16 telecommunications companies along its route. The second cable, known as the Flag (for Fiber-optic Link Around the Globe) System, runs from Britain to Japan. Similar accident happened last year when an underwater earthquake damaged many internet cables in Asia.