22 DECEMBER 2008 -- France Telecom last Friday (19 December 2008) observed that three major underwater cables were cut: "Sea Me We 4" at 7:28 am, "Sea Me We3" at 7:33, am and FLAG at 8:06 am.
The cause of the cut, which is located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia on sections linking Sicily to Egypt, remains unclear.
Most of the business-to-business traffic between Europe and Asia is rerouted through the United States.
Traffic from Europe to Algeria and Tunisia was not affected, but traffic from Europe to the Near East and Asia was interrupted to a greater or lesser extent.
A first appraisal at 7:44 am UTC gave an estimate of the following impact on the voice traffic (in percentage of out of service capacity):
• Saudi Arabia: 55% out of service
• Djibouti: 71% out of service
• Egypt: 52% out of service
• United Arab Emirates: 68% out of service
• India: 82% out of service
• Lebanon: 16% out of service
• Malaysia: 42% out of service
• Maldives: 100% out of service
• Pakistan: 51% out of service
• Qatar: 73% out of service
• Syria: 36% out of service
• Taiwan: 39% out of service
• Yemen: 38% out of service
• Zambia: 62% out of service
France Telecom says it immediately alerted one of the two maintenance boats based in the Mediterranean area, the "Raymond Croze." This France Telecom Marine cable ship based at Seyne-sur-Mer received its mobilization order early on Friday afternoon and had planned to cast off at 3:00 o'clock Saturday morning with 20 kilometers spare cable on board. The vessel should be on location on this morning for a relief mission.
Priority will be given to the recovery of the Sea Me We4 cable, then on the Sea Me We3.
France Telecom estimates that by December 25th, Sea Me We4 could be operating. And by December 31st, the situation should be back to normal, say company representatives.