Internet reels after World Trade Centre crashes

News Web sites can't cope in the aftermath of the tragedy as Internet traffic between Europe and the US rises by a factor of 40

As the full scale of the human tragedy became apparent on Tuesday, people rushing to news Web sites for news of the events in the US found a similar message waiting for them: This page cannot be displayed.

Moments after airplanes separately crashed into both towers of the World Trade Center, and then later into the Pentagon, Web sites for the major news outlets were swamped by an overflow of traffic. Many have been unable to cope with the load. Deutsche Telecom reported that Internet traffic between Europe and Germany rose by a factor of 40 as people tried to find information.

Major Web news outlets such as BBC.co.uk, ft.com, CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Yahoo News, ABCNews.com and FoxNews.com have been left unaccessible or slow to respond. CNN stripped all other stories from its site to help reduce the load on its servers.

A source at the BBC said, "At times like this people turn to the Web for the latest information about this awful event. It is inevitable that networks won't cope. I should imagine that the whole world is trying to get online right now."

At MSNBC.com it was a similar story. "We expect traffic demands to site to be enormous, but right now tabulating audience isn't a priority," said MSNBC spokesman Ben Billingsley. "We're dedicating all of our resources to covering this story thoroughly and accurately."

The Internet infrastructure itself was largely unharmed by the events. Most of the trans-Atlantic traffic passing through New York goes through a facility at Hudson Street, some way from the World Trade Center. If this was destroyed, said experts, it could slow the Internet by as much as 20 percent.

Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended indefinitely, while the Nasdaq did not open, saying that emergency market conditions are in effect. An early rally in London stocks turned into a sharp fall as the enormity of the tragedy became clear. Just after the news that trading on the NYSE had been suspended, the FTSE 100 index was down 175.4 points. At shortly before 4.00pm BST the London Stock Exchange was closed as police evacuated the City of London. Earlier, London's landmark skyscraper Canary Wharf and other buildings were evacuated.

CNET News.com's Jim Hu contributed to this story.

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