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Authorities 'cautiously hopeful' of positive developments in next few days in search for MH370

Published on Apr 7, 2014 6:00 PM
The towed pinger locator sits on the deck of the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield during the search for the black boxes of missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force on April 5, 2014. Authorities are "hopeful" that there would be positive developments in the next few days, said Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Authorities are "cautiously hopeful" that there would be positive developments in the next few days in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, said Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

He cited new signals detected by Australian navy vessel Ocean Shield, saying the developments were the "most promising leads" so far in the search for the plane that disappeared on March 8.

"Two separate signal detections have occurred 1,650 km north-west of Perth within the northern part of the defined search area. The first detection was held for approximately
2 hours and 20 minutes. HMAS Ocean Shield then lost contact before conducting a turn and attempting to re-acquire the signal,'' he told a press briefing on Monday.

“The second detection on the return leg was held for approximately 13 minutes. On this occasion, two distinct pinger returns were audible. This would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder."

"We are cautiously hopeful there will be positive developments in the next few days," he added. 

Missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 special report

Mr Hishammuddin urged all parties "to treat this information responsibly" and to give authorities time and space for verification.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) in Perth said the new signals had left the search team "encouraged" that they were very close to where they need to be.

"Clearly this is a most promising lead," said Mr Angus Houston, head of JACC in Perth, adding that it would take a few days to confirm if the signals are from the missing plane.

According to JACC, the area where the signals were detected was very deep at 4,500m, which would make it difficult to retrieve the black boxes if they are lying on the ocean floor.

“In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast,” said Mr Houston.

The detection of signals is the most significant lead authorities have had since the jet carrying 239 people vanished from civilian radar on March 8, the longest time an aircraft has gone missing.

Up to nine military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships were involved in Monday’s search for MH370. The search area is expected to be approximately 234,000 sq km, said JACC. 

The search fleet is racing against time as the data recorder of the missing plane reaches the end of its advertised battery life on Wednesday.

"The advertised time for the life of the batteries in the beacon is 30 days. Sometimes, they last for several days beyond that – say eight to 10 days beyond that – but we’re running out of time in terms of the battery life of the emergency locator beacons,'' Mr Houston said on Sunday.

The search underwater is complex because the “pings” travel differently depending on the layers of water with different temperatures. 

Nevertheless, Mr Houston said: "I'm more confident now than a week ago."