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Quakes disrupt phone, Internet service in Asia

Casualties limited; undersea cables damaged, affecting capacity for international calling.

Two strong earthquakes off the coast of Taiwan damaged undersea communications cables, disrupting phone and Internet service in Taiwan, China and Japan on Wednesday.

The earthquakes hit late Tuesday on the second anniversary of the tsunami that killed thousands in South Asia on December 26, 2004. No large waves materialized from the earthquakes in Taiwan, but the area was on a tsunami alert. Two people were killed as a result of the earthquakes when a building collapsed, according to news reports.

The quakes were among the most powerful in Taiwan in recent years, knocking out two of seven undersea cables that are used by telecommunications companies to route phone calls and Internet traffic to and from East Asia. Although traffic that normally traverses these cables has been rerouted to other cables, traffic is congested, which has led to the disruption in service.

In Taiwan, Chungwa Telecom, the country's largest phone operator, told news agencies that it had lost between 40 percent and 60 percent of its capacity for international calling to places such as the U.S. The company also said that capacity to Japan and China was also affected. Chungwa also said that Internet access had been damaged in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company said it could take up to three weeks to repair the damaged cables.