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Quake Paralyzes Phone Networks in SW China

Monday's strong earthquake in southwest China has damaged local telecommunications, network operators said.

The earthquake stopped local fixed phone services in four counties of Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, Sichuan Province, as well as five counties in neighboring Guansu Province, according to China Telecom.

But the long distance call service remained intact, it said.

China Telecom staff were monitoring and controlling the number of phone calls in and out of the quake-hit regions to avoid congestion in the network and ensure communications for disaster relief, it said.

According to China Mobile's branch in Sichuan, about 2,300 local base stations stopped operating due to power shutdowns and transmission failures caused by the quake and three switching stations were overloaded.

China Mobile has started repairing affected facilities, the office said.

Staff at China Mobile and China Unicom told Xinhua earlier that cell phone services in Sichuan and the northwestern Shaanxi Province were affected by the earthquake.

Besides power disruptions, a surge in call volume following the quake could have also slowed the cell phone network, they said. Call volumes were 10 times the normal level and the percentage of connections fell by half, China Mobile said.

The Ministry of Industry and Information called on users to talk on phone as shortly as possible to spare room for disaster relief.

The quake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale jolted Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province at 2:28 PM on Monday. Tremors were felt in a large part of China.

(Xinhua News Agency May 13, 2008)

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