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Chinese ship searching for Malaysian jet reports signal

– A Chinese ship involved in the hunt for the missing Malaysian jetliner reported hearing a pulse signal Saturday in southern Indian Ocean waters with on the same frequency used by the plane’s data recorders, as Malaysia vowed not to give up the search for the aircraft.

The Australian government agency coordinating the search for the missing plane said early today that the electronic pulse signals reportedly detected by the Chinese ship are consistent with those of an aircraft black box. But retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of the search coordination agency, said they “cannot verify any connection” at this stage between the electronic signals and the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Military and civilian planes, ships with deep-sea searching equipment and a British nuclear submarine scoured a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia’s west coast in an increasingly urgent hunt for debris and the black box recorders that hold vital information about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s last hours.

After weeks of fruitless looking, the multinational search team is racing against time to find the sound-emitting beacons in the flight and cockpit voice recorders that could help unravel the mystery of the plane’s fate. The beacons in the black boxes emit pings so they can be more easily found, but the batteries last for only about a month.

A Chinese ship that is part of the search effort detected a pulse signal in southern Indian Ocean waters, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xinhua said it had not yet been determined whether the signal was related to the missing plane, citing the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center.

Xinhua said a black box detector deployed by the ship, Haixun 01, picked up a signal at 37.5 kilohertz (cycles per second), the same frequency of the pings emitted by flight data recorders.

Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, confirmed that the frequency emitted by Flight 370’s black boxes was 37.5 kilohertz and said authorities were verifying the report.

Earlier Saturday, Xinhua reported that a Chinese military aircraft searching for the missing aircraft spotted “white floating objects” not far from where the electronic signals were detected.

Finding floating wreckage is key to narrowing the search area, as officials can then use data on currents to backtrack to where the flight recorders may be.

Houston said the Australian-led Joint Agency Coordination Centre heading the search operation could not yet verify the Chinese reports and had asked China for “any further information that may be relevant.”

He said the Australian air force was considering deploying more aircraft to the area where the Chinese ship reportedly detected the sounds.

“I have been advised that a series of sounds have been detected by a Chinese ship in the search area. The characteristics reported are consistent with the aircraft black box,” Houston said.

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