Facebook and Google are pouring more money into internet cables that could span the Pacific Ocean.
The tech giants announced Monday they’re funding two new cables called Bifrost and Echo. The cables will link America’s west coast with Indonesia and Singapore, with a stop-over in Guam, the US island territory in the western Pacific.
Facebook is investing in both cables, while Google is only funding Echo.
In a press release on Monday, Facebook said the cables would increase transpacific internet capacity by 70%. CNBC reported Echo was slated to be completed by late 2023, and Bifrost by late 2024.
Facebook and Google are partnering with Indonesian companies Telin and XL Axiata, as well as Singaporean company Keppel.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesian rescuers pulled out body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the Java Sea early Sunday morning, a day after a Boeing 737-500 with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, officials said.
Officials were hopeful they were honing in on the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 after sonar equipment detected a signal from the aircraft.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters that authorities have launched massive search efforts after identifying “the possible location of the crash site.”
“These pieces were found by the SAR team between Lancang Island and Laki Island,” National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito in a statement.
Indonesian military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said teams on the Rigel navy ship equipped with a remote-operated vehicle had detected a signal from the aircraft, which fit the coordinates from the last contact made by the pilots before the plane went missing.
“We have immediately deployed our divers from navy’s elite unit to determine the finding to evacuate the victims,” Tjahjanto said.
More than 12 hours since the Boeing plane operated by the Indonesian airline lost contact, little is known about what caused the crash.
Fishermen in the area around Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta’s coast, reported hearing an explosion around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We heard something explode, we thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water,” fisherman Solihin, who goes by one name, told The Associated Press by phone.
“It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly. But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat.”
Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2:36 p.m. It disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 29,000 feet (8,839 meters), he said.
There were 62 people on board, including seven children and three babies.
“We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182,” Boeing said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time.”
Authorities established two crisis centers, one at airport and one at port. Families gathered to wait for news of loved ones.
On social media, people began circulating the flight manifesto with photos and videos of those who were listed as passengers. One video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye while walking through the airport.
Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane, which is 26 years old and previously used by airlines in the United States, was airworthy. He told reporters Saturday that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.
“Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy,” Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved in Saturday’s incident did not have the automated flight-control system that played a role in the Lion Air crash and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later, leading to the grounding of the MAX 8 for 20 months.
The Lion Air crash was Indonesia’s worst airline disaster since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda airlines flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.
Sriwijaya Air has only has several minor incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when landing plane went off runway due to a hydraulic issue.
The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, but reversed the decision in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union has previously had similar bans, lifting them in June 2018.
In a wild animal market in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province, bats are still on the menu.
Many of them are caught by hunters in forests using nets and hooks. Once at the market, their wings are removed, their fur scorched off using a blow torch, and they’re then skewered ready for cooking.
In many places where bats are a delicacy, they’ve been off the menu in recent months.
The link between bushmeat and the potential for the transfer of viruses has turned up the heat on this rogue trade.
An animal market in Wuhan is where it’s believed COVID-19 first made the leap from animal to human.
Indonesia’s Langowan market is well known for its exotic meats like snake, lizard, rats, and wild boar.
“Buyers were afraid to eat bat meat. But gradually, because they think that we have a different way of cooking, they are not afraid of it anymore,” manager Yani Tulangow told Business Insider Today. “Recently trade is back to normal.”
Tulangow told us that there are no controls over the bat meat sold at the market. And he has no plans to shut down any of the wild animal trade.
But according to experts, a market where different species are brought together and butchered in unhygienic surroundings is the ideal environment for a spillover event to occur.
“It is likely what is going on in Wuhan will be occurring in Indonesia,” Raden Wasito, professor of veterinary medicine at Gadjah Mada University said from his laboratory in Jakarta.
“The Wuhan situation where the coronavirus became pandemic, it’s almost similar to what is going on in Indonesia where there are so many wild animal markets. All of those things can create a reservoir for many kinds of diseases.”
Bats are a prime suspect for transfering coronaviruses to humans.
Disease transfers from animals to people, known as zoonoses, are not confined to so-called “wet” markets. They can happen in any setting where humans mix with animals – be they pets or livestock.
“Spillovers are common, they are happening all the time,” Dave Redding, a senior researcher at the the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London, told Business Insider Today.
“People get illnesses from livestock all over the world. That’s happening every single day, tens, if not hundreds of times.”
“And I don’t think these wet markets are going to have the same impact as all of the other contacts that are going on. And so it may be a really nice thing to say, we can just get rid of wet markets and it will solve the problem. It won’t solve the problem.”
Investigators from the World Health Organization are still working to determine the exact origins of COVID-19.
Bats are a prime suspect, perhaps transferring the virus to people by way of another animal host.
“There are multiple coronaviruses known, some of which are closely related to SARS, some of which are closely related to COVID,” Kris Murray, senior lecturer in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, said. “And it does look like this particular particular group of bats is a sort of reservoir, the animal reservoir, for these groups of coronaviruses.”
There are over 1,000 species of bat. Living in tight colonies but able to travel large distances, they are effective at not only hosting, but transfering pathogens.
But even if bats are to blame this time, Murray is keen to point out the chances of a new infectious disease passing from a bat, or any animal, to a human – and then going on to become a lethal pandemic – is still tiny.
“We have had a very long history of exposure to wildlife and we’ve had every opportunity in the last 100 years of massive environmental destruction for so many of these things to have spilled out from wildlife into people,” he said.
“What’s surprising to me is that not more of this stuff is happening. It can happen, but the fact that we only have 200 or 250 viruses from all species that have made their way into the human population that we know about given all of the technology that we have to detect these viruses, to me says that this process is so rare.”
Rare, yet in the case of COVID-19, a reality.
Many experts fear for the future of bats and other wild animals hunted for their meat.
In North Sulawesi, black and yellow flying foxes, some with a wingspan of more than a meter, gorge themselves on fruit, pollen, and nectar.
Here they are hunted as pests, but also for their meat.
Herman Buhel of the Gorontalo region, 350 kilometers west of Langowan, hunts bats among the mangrove forests of Ponelo island.
“I use nylon, rope, and wood. I wait for the bat to pass and get caught in the hook. The hook is attached to the nylon,” he told us.
And with human populations swelling and habitats under threat from urbanization and palm plantations, many fear for the future of not just bats, but all wild animals hunted for their meat or sold to smugglers of exotic species.
“There are several places selling animals that I never imagined could be sold,” said Annisa Devi Rachmawati, a vet working at the Tasikoki Animal Rescue Center in North Sulawesi.
“There must be attention from the government and from institutions to monitor how to reduce this pattern like the animal trade, and the consumption of animal meat and other kinds.”
Breaking the habit of eating bat meat will be difficult.
Bat meat is a prized delicacy in this part of Indonesia, saved for special occasions and public holidays.
At Langowan market, a kilogram sells for the equivalent of around $3.
“We have always eaten this, and no one has been infected with the corona,” resident Kiki Rondonuwu said as he bought several bats in the market.
“It’s so delicious,” says local butcher Jane Wungkara. “We have eaten it since we were children.”
Breaking habits of a lifetime will be hard. And it’s feared that banning the sale of bat meat in markets would only drive the trade underground.
Cooking a traditional bat meat curry involves boiling the meat before mixing in coconut milk and plenty of spices.
While the bat remains the villain in a still-unfolding global drama, here at least, it is a dish to be savored.