Latest signals fuel hope
Updated: 2014-04-07 07:39
By Agencies in Perth, Australia (China Daily USA)
More resources deployed to verify progress on search in Indian Ocean
Three separate but fleeting sounds from deep in the Indian Ocean offered new hope over the weekend in the hunt for flight MH370, as officials rushed to determine whether they were signals from the plane's black box before the beacons fall silent.
The head of the multinational search being conducted off Australia's west coast confirmed that vessels from both Australia and China had detected suspected pulse signals in recent days, saying more ships and planes are being deployed for verifications.
After a Chinese ship had picked up electronic pulsing signals twice in a small patch of the search zone, once on Friday and again on Saturday, an Australian ship carrying sophisticated deep-sea sound equipment picked up a third signal in a different part of the massive search area on Sunday.
"This is an important and encouraging lead, but one which I urge you to treat carefully," said retired Australian air chief marshal Angus Houston, who is coordinating the search.
He stressed that the signals had not been verified as being linked to the Malaysia Airlines plane, which was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.
Investigators believe MH370 veered way off course and went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. A senior Malaysian government source told CNN on Sunday that the plane flew around Indonesian airspace after it dropped off Malaysian military radar. The plane may have intentionally taken a long route to avoid radar detection, the source said.
Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday that Chinese patrol vessel Haixun 01 had detected a "pulse signal" at 37.5 kHz per second - the same frequency emitted by flight data recorders aboard the missing plane - in the southern Indian Ocean.
There are many clicks, buzzes and other sounds in the ocean from animals, but the 37.5 kHz pulse was selected for underwater locator beacons because there is nothing else in the sea that would naturally make that sound, according to William Waldock, an expert on search and rescue who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
Houston said the Australian ship Ocean Shield, which has US underwater search equipment, also received a separate "acoustic event" on Sunday some 300 nautical miles from Haixun 01.
The British navy ship HMS Echo, which is fitted with sophisticated sound-locating equipment, was moving to the area where the signals were picked up and would be there in the next day or two, he said.
The Ocean Shield, which is carrying high-tech sound detectors from the US Navy, would also head there, but would first investigate the sound it picked up in its current region, he said.
Houston said he is satisfied with the current cooperation with China.
He conceded that his organization first heard about the initial signal China had detected when it was reported by a Chinese journalist aboard the Haixun 01. But he said that at "almost the same time" he was informed of the development by the Chinese government.
The agency was formally told about the second Chinese detection on Saturday "in absolutely the normal way", he said.
"China is sharing everything that is relevant to this search. Everything," Houston said.
Still, the search agency will be adding a Chinese-speaking liaison officer "to make sure nothing falls through the cracks", he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, families of passengers aboard the missing plane attended a prayer service on Sunday that also drew thousands of Malaysian sympathizers.
"This is not a prayer for the dead because we have not found bodies. This is a prayer for blessings and that the plane will be found," said Liow Tiong Lai, the president of a government coalition party that organized the two-hour session.
Two Chinese women were in tears and hugged by their caregivers after the rally. Many others looked somber and several wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Pray for MH370".
Two-thirds of the passengers aboard the missing flight were Chinese.
AP - Xinhua
Relatives of the passengers of flight MH370 pray during a gathering of thousands of people in Kuala Lumpur for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane on Sunday. Zhang Hao / for China Daily
(China Daily USA 04/07/2014 page1)