Old Hands

SINGAPORE, Jan 12, 2007 (AFP) – Workers are relying on 19th century technology to fix a very 21st century problem — disruption of the Internet traffic that tech-savvy Asia relies on.

Crewmen on boats south of Taiwan are dragging the seabed with grappling hooks at the end of long ropes to recover fibre optic cables damaged in a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck the region on December 26.

“No electronics involved,” said John Walters, general manager of Global Marine, one of the firms engaged in the repairs. “It’s an old and traditional technique.”

Millions of people across the region, in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and as far away as Australia, suffered Internet and telephone blackouts when the cables, linking Asian countries with the US and beyond, were damaged.

Telecom operators have diverted the traffic to allow service to return to normal but the repair work continues.

“At this point none of those cables have been repaired,” Walters told AFP in an interview.

“We are talking about cable that’s lying on the surface of the seabed down to about 4,000 metres (2.5 miles),” said Walters.

Global Marine has two ships i