Two held over undersea cable damage

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Two ships have been impounded in Dubai after satellite images indicated that they may have been responsible for the damage to undersea cables which left large parts of the Middle East without proper internet access..

Reliance Globalcom, which owns the cables, used satellite photos to identify the MV Hounslow and MV Ann as being the most likely culprits and stopped the ships in Dubai.

One of the ships has now been released after the Korean owners agreed to pay compensation. But two sailors on the second Iraqi-owned ship may now face trial.

"The matter has been brought to the notice of appropriate authorities which are taking necessary action," a Reliance Globalcom official told The Hindu.

The loss of the cables caused internet access in some countries to slow by as much as 80 percent, and harmed performance at call centres in Egypt to the extent that the state telecoms company asked ordinary users to stay offline.

Egyptian authorities said initially that ships were not responsible for the outages which led the United Nations to investigate whether the cable had been damaged by saboteurs.

However, it is claimed that the two ships were travelling in a forbidden area and dropped their anchors during a storm, where they snagged on and then broke several vital cables.

A press statement issued by local service provider Etisalat quoted Omar Bin Kalban, managing director of E-marine PJSC, as saying: "This was an extremely difficult period for the region's telecommunications industry.

"The cuts were extremely serious as many of the Gulf countries rely on submarine cables to provide access to international markets and internet content. Accordingly, telephone and internet services were seriously degraded."
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