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Africa suffers another subsea cable disruption

Port Louis Mauritius
Port Louis Mauritius

Damage to an undersea cable off the African coast is exacerbating disruptions of internet services to the continent, impacting customers on the islands of Mauritius and Reunion.

Efforts to repair the South Africa-Far East (Safe) cable, which links Mauritius and Reunion to South Africa, India and Malaysia, have been put in motion, said Port Louis-based Mauritius Telecom in a statement on Friday.

The damage halted operations at SBM Bank (Mauritius), on what should have been a busy last Friday of the month. “Due to a technical problem with the internet gateway on the Safe submarine cable, some of our services, including our ATMs, point-of-sale terminal and cards, are currently experiencing a temporary unavailability,” the lender said.

The break, which is limiting internet services to the islands, highlights the vulnerability of critical communications infrastructure. It comes at a time when several other major internet cables are already damaged off the continent’s west coast and in the Red Sea.

Four cables were damaged near Ivory Coast last month after seismic activity in the region, with repairs ongoing. Three additional cables off the coast of Yemen have been offline since late February after they were severed by a cargo ship sunk by Houthi militants. The company responsible for the repair of those cables is still waiting for a permit to work in Yemeni waters, one of the cable operators, Seacom, said.

The damaged 13 500km Safe fibre cable is one of three connecting Mauritius, an island nation with close to 1.3 million people and an economy mostly dependent on financial services and tourism. The cable belongs to a consortium of companies that includes Mauritius Telecom, Vodafone Group and Orange, among others. The cause has yet to be determined.

“Services of local and international operators which are members of the related consortium have been disrupted,” said Mauritius Telecom, adding that internet traffic is being redirected to other submarine cables.

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