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Australian official: Ping detection 'promising lead' in search for MH370

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The location of the pings are pointed out in a Monday press conference. (Source: CNN) The location of the pings are pointed out in a Monday press conference. (Source: CNN)

PERTH, AUSTRALIA (RNN) - A pinger locator being used in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has detected signals consistent with aircraft black boxes, an Australian search official said Monday.

 

The Ocean Shield, the Australian vessel, was towing a U.S. pinger locator underwater when they heard consistent pings Sunday in waters more than two miles deep.

"Their work has enabled us to come up with an underwater search area that is narrowly focused," Angus Houston, chief coordinator of the Joint Agency Coordination Center, said in a Monday press conference.

"A short time after the sixth exchange, there was another exchange with a slightly different signal," Houston explained. "This was a matter of, I think, about eight minutes after the sixth ping, and the experts consider this as very significant. They think something happened at that stage, and we assess that that's about where the aircraft would have run out of fuel."

Houston described the signals as the best news the searchers have received so far.

"We've got a visual indication on a screen, and we've also got an audible signal. And the audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon," Houston said.

The underwater search area has been further winnowed thanks to the multinational effort, Houston said.

However, time is running out for the batteries on the black box, as the 30th day of battery life approaches.

Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who gave the Malaysian briefing later Monday, said he felt confident of some sort of positive resolution "within days, if not hours."

Hussein said that, in preparation for a possible discovery, he has linked up with a number of transportation agencies throughout the world to facilitate the investigation into the crash.

"The more investigators we have, the better, in a search so unprecedented," he said.

"We will continue with all our efforts to find MH370," Hussein added, and added the nation continues to "hope and pray."

Houston added they need further confirmation in the form of some wreckage, something they haven't been able to do yet.

But he cautioned that the search is far from finished.

"We still got a lot of difficult, painstaking work to do to confirm that this is where the aircraft entered the water," Houston cautioned.

The future of the search is now below the waves in deep water, Houston said.

"An underwater pinger locator will be deployed and will continue to work," he said, to further triangulate the area.

Once searchers zero in on the location of the black box, they will deploy a submersible into the depths of the Indian Ocean to further investigate the sea bed, scouting for a possible debris field.

"In very deep, oceanic waters, nothing happens fast," he said.

The plane has been missing since taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8, with 239 on board.

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