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    Apr 07, 2014

    Three signals detected in search for MH370


    AUSTRALIA yesterday sent planes and ships to investigate signals detected by a Chinese ship in the hunt for a missing Malaysian jet, saying they matched black-box beacons and were an "important and encouraging lead".

    The Australian search authorities said yesterday a Chinese patrol vessel, the Haixun 01, had picked up a fleeting "ping" signal twice in recent days in waters west of Perth, near where investigators believe Flight MH370 went down on March 8.

    Meanwhile, Australia's HMAS Ocean Shield reported a separate "acoustic event" some 300 nautical miles away.

    The Ocean Shield is carrying sophisticated United States Navy equipment designed to pick up signals sent from the black boxes, which may hold the key to why the aircraft ended up thousands of kilometres off course.

    "This is an important and encouraging lead but one which I urge you to continue to treat carefully. We are working in a very big ocean and within a very large search area," Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the operation, told a media conference in Perth.

    Mr Houston said the mission was taking both detections "very seriously" as time ticked down on the beacons' battery life, though he described the Chinese finding as the more promising.

    A black-box detector deployed by the Haixun 01 picked up the signal with a frequency of 37.5kHz per second - the same as that emitted by flight recorders - at about 25 degrees south and 101 degrees east, Xinhua reported on Saturday.

    The Australian search authorities said such a signal would be consistent with that of a black box, but both they and Xinhua stressed there was no conclusive evidence linking it to the Boeing 777.

    "The 37.5kHz is the specific frequency that these locator pingers operate on," said Mr Anish Patel, president of Sarasota, Florida-based Dukane Seacom, which made the black-box locator.

    "It's a very unique frequency, typically not found in background ocean noise", such as that of whales or other marine mammals, he said

    Some analysts were sceptical that the Chinese ship had picked up a pulse.

    "I am very sceptical that the Chinese have found something so soon, given the vastness of the search area," Mr Ravi Madavaram, an aviation analyst with Frost & Sullivan based in Kuala Lumpur, said.

    Up to 10 military planes, two civil aircraft and 13 ships were scouring the remote waters yesterday, concentrating on about 216,000 sq km of the Indian Ocean around 2,000km northwest of Perth.