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Egypt offline for weekend after Med seabed cables cut

French robot gropes bottom

Internet and phone communications remain troublesome across much of the Middle East today, following a multiple undersea cable break in the Mediterranean on Friday.

AP reports that the SEA-ME-WE4 and SEA-ME-WE3 cables were both broken between Sicily and Tunisia, and that a repair ship operated by France Telecom Marine is now at the site searching for the severed ends with a remotely-operated submersible. Once the ends are found, they will be lifted to the surface and rejoined, a process which will take some time.

"We have to fix the cable fibre by fibre, and it's a very huge cable," Louis-Michel Aymard of France Telecom Marine told the AP.

It is understood that a third line was also cut, probably as a result of the same incident, but this is operated by the FLAG cable company and will be repaired by a different ship.

The cause of the breaks will be unknown until the cable ends are found. Ship's anchors and fishing activity are the most common causes of undersea cable problems, which occur on a weekly basis.

Reports indicate that Egypt was initially badly affected by Friday's breakages, but that "eighty per cent" capacity has now been restored by re-routing. Other countries in the Middle East remain severely affected, according to reports.

Two of the same cables were broken in another incident early this year, in that case just north of the Egyptian coast. ®

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