Hong Kong officials deploy emergency powers after Web breakdown

Hong Kong telecom authorities have assumed emergency powers as firms faced Internet disruption on the first day back to work after an earthquake damaged regional undersea data cables, an AFP report said.

The AFP report said telecom and Internet service providers sent the city's telecom authority OFTA hourly updates on service capacity as repair ships struggled to mend fibre optic cables severed in the Boxing Day quake off Taiwan.

'We put the emergency response system in place this morning as this was the first day that businesses and schools resumed operations after the Christmas and New Year holidays,' Ha Yung-kuen, OFTA's acting director general of telecommunications was quoted by AFP as saying.

OFTA had received only 20 inquiries from Internet users by mid-morning, suggesting that services had not been hit as hard as had been feared, the AFP report said.

By the close of business, OFTA said traffic had moved smoothly and there had been no reports of serious congestion.

The AFP report said international phone calls, mobile services and fax lines were back to normal a week after the Boxing Day temblor ripped through submarine data cables in the Taiwan Straits.

The cables carry most of the region's digital traffic. All but one of the seven submarine links, which carry international data in and out of Hong Kong, snapped and Internet capacity was down to 70%, the AFP report added.

One repair ship was already in the damage zone working on Hong Kong's cables, while another was in port receiving repairs for damage sustained in rough seas. Another four were on their way, Ha added.