DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - A robotic submarine searched beneath the Mediterranean yesterday for damaged communications cables, two days after Web and telephone access was knocked out for much of the Middle East.
Telecommunication providers from Cairo to Dubai continued yesterday to scramble to reroute voice and data traffic through potentially costly detours in Asia and North America after the lines running under the Mediterranean Sea were damaged Friday.
Internet access was largely knocked out for two days in at least six countries - Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Yemen.
It is the second time this year that trans-Mediterranean cables to Europe had been severed. The earlier cut, in late January, was apparently caused by a ship's anchor.
A ship operated by France Telecom's marine division arrived yesterday afternoon at what it believes is the accident site south of Sicily, spokesman Louis-Michel Aymard said.
The crew released a robotic submarine named Hector to search for two of the three damaged cables, which are owned by a consortium that includes the Paris-based telecommunications giant. Once found, the cable ends will be pulled to the surface and repaired on deck, a process that could take several days.
"We have to fix the cable fiber by fiber, and it's a very huge cable," Aymard said. He said the company hoped to have the first line fixed by Thursday.
The third cable is operated by Reliance Globalcom. Officials at that company could not be reached for comment.
Regional communication providers' efforts to redirect voice and data traffic brought some areas back online over the weekend. Still, rolling outages continued to plague large parts of the region.
Emirati provider Etisalat said Internet service remained at around 85 percent capacity. The Abu Dhabi-based company was redirecting some of its data traffic through South Asia, spokesman Saeed al-Badi said.
Dubai-based Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co., better known as Du, said it was sending data and international voice traffic through Asia and the western United States.
The Egyptian government said about 80 percent of Internet service had been restored. Connection speeds were down in Yemen and in Jordan.