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Australian naval ship detects signals in southern Indian Ocean

An Australian ship searching for missing Malaysian flight MH370 has detected signals matching those from a black box transponder. The signals have been described as the "most promising lead so far."

An Australian naval ship, overseeing the search in the southern Indian Ocean for the missing passenger jet, says two separate underwater sounds

picked up by equipment

are consistent with transmissions from black box recorders on a plane.

In a press conference from Pearce Airbase in Perth, Australia on Monday, Angus Houston, head of a joint agency coordinating the search, described the finding as the "most promising lead so far" in the search for the missing plane.

He says the position of the noise needs to be further refined, at which point an underwater autonomous vehicle will be sent to investigate.

Houston called the lead "very encouraging," but warned it may take days to confirm whether the signals picked up are indeed from the flight recorders on MH370. "In very deep oceanic water nothing happens fast", he said, "We still have a lot of very painstaking work to do to confirm this is where the plane hit the water."

Up to nine military planes, three civil planes and 14 ships are to take part in Monday's search to narrow the location of the signals.

On Saturday, a

Chinese ship also detected a "pulse signal"

consistent with a signal from a black box flight recorder of the type in the missing Boeing 777.

However, with a search area spanning more than 230,000 square kilometers (88,000 square miles) the search has been painstakingly slow. Search officials are also battling against time as the plane's flight and voice recorders will soon fall silent. Their batteries last only for about a month.

The plane vanished March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing with 239 people on board. The majority of its passengers were Chinese.

hc/crh(Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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